Bawer On Günter Grass

10 Apr

Gunter Grass

Gunter Grass


The only surprising thing about the anti-Semitic poem that Günter Grass published last week, and that has created an international firestorm, is that he waited so long to write such a thing. Anti-Semitism, after all, is all the rage these days among left-wing European literary intellectuals (excuse the multiple redundancy), and Grass has always prided himself on being in the forefront of these trends, not being a Johann-come-lately.

Who is Günter Grass, you ask? For decades after the 1959 publication of his first and most famous (and highly overrated) novel, The Tin Drum, he was described by admirers as the conscience of postwar Germany. His detractors had other words for him: smug, arrogant, obnoxious. Even Richard Gilman, a writer for the left-wing The Nation whom one might have expected to celebrate the guy, complained in 1982 about his lofty, hectoring tone, stating:

Today there is no writer more swollen with self-importance than Günter Grass, who has begun to think of himself as identical with the fates of German literature, German politics, and German mores. John Updike, for his part, saw Grass as a cautionary case for politically engaged writers: he can't be bothered to write a novel; he just sends dispatches from the front lines of his engagement.

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Article by Bruce Bawer.

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"Ignorance and virtue suck on the same straw. Souls grow on bones, but die beneath bankers' hours.""