The Loss of Novelist Günter Grass

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The Tin Drum Book Cover

The world lost Günter Grass yesterday, 13 April, 2015, and so also lost a German novelist, poet, playwright, illustrator, graphic artist, sculptor and recipient of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Literature. He was most well-known for his novels, especially The Tin Drum, and also for being a social critic who was adamant in his anti-war and anti-Nazi rhetoric. He passed away due to a lung infection in Luebeck, Germany according to a release by his publisher. 

Grass was born in the Free City of Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland) on 16 October, 1927 to parents that owned a grocery store. He grew up during the height of Hitler's power, and never denied that as a youth he counted himself one of Hitler's followers. However, later on in his life he realized the atrocity of the Second World War and the crimes that Hitler and the Nazis perpetrated. He spent the rest of his time on earth making sure that these crimes were not buried or forgotten, and calling out for the public to realise the destruction that they had caused.

It was not until 2006, days before his memoir Peeling the Onion was to be released, that he revealed that he had served briefly as a teenage soldier in the Waffen SS, the military branch of the Nazi Corps. The release of this information angered many people across the world that had previously deemed him a "saint" for his anti-Nazi and anti-Hitler sentiments. Many pegged him as a hypocrite, but Grass said that he had been too ashamed to previously admit his exact involvements with this organization, but it had so torn him up that he knew he had to be honest about it in his memoir. 

Cat and Mouse CoverWhile in the SS, he had been captured by the US forces and forced to visit a concentration camp. He was released from a POW camp in 1946, and then trained as a stonemason and sculptor until he began writing in the 1950s.

In The Tin Drum, the first work in the Danzig Trilogy (which also includes Cat and Mouse and Dog Years) Grass created a character who had purposely halted his own physical growth, which Grass used to symbolize Germany's stunted morality during and after Nazism. The book brought him universal acclaim after he published it in 1959, and he became one of Germany's most famous intellectuals. During his lifetime he also advocated for environmental conservation, debt relief for poor countries, and more generous political asylum policies throughout the world. 

Although he may have been a controversial figure, it is difficult to argue against the impact and power of his prose in his literary works. They will leave an indelible mark on history, and should be regarded as extremely important in the act of remembering the struggles and horrors of World War II. 

More titles and works by Günter Grass are available in the library catalogue

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