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April 200
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The Editor
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Elizabeth Kuehn
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Rachel Seilern
The President's Ball
Herwig Wandschneider
Siegfried & Roy
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Öl zuliebe
Salve Imperator
Good Citizen Award
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Sybille reports
Ham Se det jehört?
Germany & Easter Eggs
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Age of Chivalry
Powell: Friendship
Places to Work
Fuel Cell Sub
Gunther Grass Novels
Ute Lemper Tour
Help Baghdad Museum
Celebrating Lucas Cranach
Leipzig 2012 Olympics

Grass’s New Novel in U.S. Bookstores

  TWIG - German novelist and Nobel Prize winner Günter Grass is renowned for his sophisticated and socially critical works. His novels The Tin Drum, The Rat and Dog Years have appealed to German and international audiences alike. Thus it comes as little surprise that his latest novel, Crabwalk, is being highly acclaimed by German and American critics.

Like many of Grass’s works, Crabwalk deals with Germany’s past and the dangers posed by repressed memory. The book tells the story of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German cruise ship torpedoed in the Baltic Sea on the night of January 30, 1945, carrying as many as 10,500 people, most of them refugees fleeing the Red Army’s advance into the German enclave around Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland).

When published in Germany early last year, the novel was seen as a taboo breaker, because it implicitly claims that the time has come to acknowledge that some Germans were also victims of World War II. The novel addresses two long-buried wartime memories, that of Germans who were expelled from or fled territories once claimed by Germany, and more specifically, the thousands who died during the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff. Crabwalk has stirred debate in Germany about the hardships faced by Germans during the war. Recent publications such as Jörg Friedrich’s Der Brand (The Fire), a best-selling history of the Allied bombing of German cities, and W. G. Sebald’s essay "Air War and Literature" have added to the discussion.

"I was surprised by the reaction to my book," Grass told the New York Times in an interview published Tuesday (April 8). "I thought it would be of interest perhaps for the older generation. But when I do a reading, you see the old generation there, but also many very young people."

Grass stresses his intention in writing the book was not to change the world’s perspective on World War II, nor to present the Gustloff catastrophe as crime against Germany. "One of the many reasons I wrote this book was to take the subject away from the extreme right," he says. "They said the tragedy of the Gustloff was a war crime. It wasn’t. It was terrible, but it was a result of war, a terrible result of war." That result in no way lessens the gravity of Germany’s own war crimes, Grass suggests. But it does represent a real disaster that was virtually ignored for years, with very real emotional consequences.
Grass has his own vision of German history and responsibility, captured on the last page of the book: "It never ends," he writes. "Never will it end."

To read the New York Times interview with Grass, click here.


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