A few days ago German Writer Gunter Grass died (13 April 2015). I first came to know about him in 2006. I recall correctly, he was in news for being a Nazi supporter during his youth. That was not surprising as Grass who was born in 1927 in Nazi Germany, not only served in German army during Second World War, but also spent a year as an American War prisoner till 1946. But he was just 19 in 1946. That’s he had a long life ahead of him to retrospect and start afresh. It’s an altogether different thing that, Grass a staunch socialist all his civil life, never disclosed till 2006 that he volunteered for Hitler’s Army.
In 1950s Grass started his literary career. His first novel, The Tin Drum, came in 1959, for which he received Nobel Prize in Literature four decades later in 1999.
In his six decade long writing career, Grass created many masterpieces, which freely took from political changes during Nazi Germany and after that.
Throughout his writing career (his books here), he tried to show German Culture as distinct from Hitler era and Nazi Germany.
I have not read any of his work, and everything I know of him is based on his opinions and views on crucial developments that took place during his lifetime.
Grass criticized the unification of East and West Germany in early nineties. He called the exercise an action taken in haste. What’s fascinating about Grass was the big change in his thought process over the years, particular in his thought process as a youth and later years.
In 2012, Grass again came in news for calling Israel a threat to World Peace and stability. [Poem: What must be said].
From my little understanding of Grass, it seems that Grass was deeply unhappy with the Nazi Regime. Although he retained some shreds of Nazi nationalism in him, until his death; but still he had realized how destructive, blind nationalism can be. His hate for Israel might have emanated from the fact that just like Hitler, Israel also chose to remain in constant war with its imaginary friends and self. A scenario, where everywhere one sees, he/she finds just enemies and no friends.
Whenever I think of Gunter Grass, one interesting instance about him comes to my mind. Actually this was shared by Late Khushwant Singh, in his celebrated Malice Column. Khushwant Singh once shared an incident, where Grass’ wife ran an advertisement in a local newspaper for a maid. The sole job of the maid was to peel and cut onions (The book named Peeling The Onions reveals Grass at his intimate best
). According to Singh, Grass was so fond of eating meat that he used to eat meat every two hours, His wife got tired of pealing and cutting onions to go into these meat meals. Since Grass spent most of his day in his study, the meat preparations were an all day affair.