Grass, Günter (Wilhelm)

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GRASS, Günter (Wilhelm)

Pseudonym: Artur Knoff. Nationality: German. Born: Danzig, 16 October 1927. Education: Danzig Volksschule and Gymnasium; stonemason's apprentice, Düsseldorf, 1947-48; studied sculpture and painting, Düsseldorf Academy of Art, 1948-52, and Berlin Academy of Fine Arts, 1953-56. Military Service: Joined the Hitler Youth, 1930s; German military, 1943-46: wounded in action, 1945, prisoner of war, Marienbad, Czechoslovakia, released 1946. Family: Married 1) Anna Margareta Schwartz in 1954 (divorced 1978), three sons and one daughter; 2) Ute Grunert in 1979. Career: Worked at a variety of jobs after the war while in school, including on farms, in a potash mine, as a dealer in the black market, as a tombstone cutter, and as a drummer in a jazz band, 1946-56; member, Gruppe 47, beginning in 1955; sculptor and writer, Paris, 1956-60. Party member, 1982-93, and campaign worker, 1965, 1968, 1972, 1987, and 1998, Social Democratic Party (SPD). Lived in Calcutta, India, 1987-88. Since 1976 cofounder and coeditor, L. President, Berlin Academy of Fine Arts, 1983-86. Awards: Suddeutscher Rund Funk Lyrikpreis, 1955; Gruppe 47 prize, 1958; City of Bremen prize, 1959; German Critics prize, 1960; Foreign book prize (France), 1962; Georg Büchner prize, 1965; Fontaine prize, 1968; Heuss prize, 1969; Mondello prize (Palermo) and Carl von Ossiersky medal, both in 1977; International literary award, Viareggio-Versilia prize, and Majkowski medal, all in 1978; Vienna literature prize, 1980; Feltrinelli prize, 1982; Leonhard Frank Ring, 1988; Karel Capek prize (Czech Republic), 1994; Nobel prize for literature, 1999. Honorary degrees: Kenyon College, 1965; Harvard University, 1976; University of Poznan, 1990; University of Gdansk, 1993; Free University Berlin, 1999. Member: American Academy of Arts and Sciences (honorary member).



Gesammelte Gedichte. 1971.

Zeichnen und Schreiben: Das bildnerische Werk des Schriftstellers Günter Grass, edited by Anselm Dreher (2 vols.). 1982; as Graphics and Writing, 1983.

Bd. 1: Zeichnungen und Texte 1954-1977 [Vol. 1: Drawings and Words 1954-1977]. 1982.

Bd. 2: Radierungen und Texte 1972-1982 [Vol. 2: Etchings and Words 1972-1982]. 1984.


Die Blechtrommel. 1959, as The Tin Drum, 1961.

Katz und Maus. 1961; as Cat and Mouse, 1963.

Hundejahre, 1963. as Dog Years, 1965.

Örtlich betäubt. 1969; as Local Anaesthetic, 1970.

Aus dem Tagebuch einer Schnecke. 1972, as From the Diary of a Snail, 1973.

Mariazuehren. 1973; as Inmarypraise, 1974.

Der Butt. 1977, as The Flounder, 1978.

Das Treffen in Telgte. 1979, as The Meeting at Telgte, 1979.

Kopfgeburten; Oder die Deutschen sterben aus. 1980; as Headbirths; or the Germans are Dying Out, 1982.

Die Rättin. 1986; as The Rat, 1986.

Unkenrufe. 1992; as The Call of the Toad, 1992.

Ein weites Feld. 1995; as Too Far Afield, 2000.


Stoffreste (ballet), music by Aribert Reimann (produced Essen, 1957). 1960.

Hochwasser [Flood] (produced Frankfurt, 1957). 1963; in Four Plays, 1967.

Onkel, Onkel (produced Cologne, 1958). 1965; in Four Plays, 1967.

Fünf Köche (ballet; produced Bonn, 1959).

Zweiunddreissig Zähne (produced 1959.)

Beritten hin und zuruck (produced Frankfurt, 1959). As Rocking Back and Forth, 1968.

Noch zehn Minuten bis Buffalo [Only Ten Minutes to Buffalo] (produced Bochum, 1959). Published with Hochwasser, 1967; in Four Plays, 1967.

Die bösen Köche (produced Berlin, 1961). 1957; as The Wicked Cooks, 1964.

Goldmäulchen (produced Munich, 1963).

Die Plebejer proben den Aufstand: Ein deutsches Trauerspiel (produced Berlin, 1966). 1965; as The Plebeians Rehearse the Uprising: A German Tragedy, 1966.

Four Plays (includes Flood ; Onkel, Onkel ; Only Ten Minutes to Buffalo ; The Wicked Cooks ). 1967.

Davor, adaptation of the novel (produced Berlin, 1969). 1973; as Max: A Play, 1972.

Die Vogel Scheuchen (ballet; produced Berlin, 1970).


Katz und Maus, 1967, Die Blechtrommel, 1979.

Radio Plays:

Noch zehn Minuten nach Buffalo, 1962; Eine offentliche Diskussion, 1963; Die Plebejer proben den Aufstand, 1966; Hochwasser, 1977.


Die Vorzuge der Windhuhner [The Advantages of Windfowl]. 1956.

Gleisdreieck [Rail Triangle]. 1960.

Selected Poems (English and German). 1966.

Gedichte. 1967.

Ausgefragt: Gedichte und Zeichnungen [Questioned]. 1967; as New Poems, 1968.

Poems of Günter Grass. 1969.

Liebe gepruft: Sieben Gedichte mit sieben Radierungen. 1974.

Mit Sophie in die Pilze gegangen. 1976.

In the Egg and Other Poems (includes poems from Selected Poems and New Poems ). 1977.

Kinderlied: Poems and Etchings (English and German). 1982.

Ach, Butt, dein Mächen geht böse aus: Gedichte und Radierungen. 1983.

Gedichte und Kurzprosa, edited by Anita Overwien-Neuhaus and Volker Neuhaus. 1987.

Die Gedichte 1955-1986. 1988.

Tierschutz. 1990.

Novemberland: Selected Poems, 1956-1993 (English and German). 1996.

Short Story

Mein Jahrhundert. 1999; as My Century, 1999.


Die Ballerina. 1963.

Über das Selbsverständliche. 1968; as Speak Out! Speeches, Open Letters, Commentaries, 1969.

Über meinen Lehrer Döblin, und andere Vorträge. 1968.

Briefe über die Grenze, with Pavel Kohout. 1968.

Dokumente zur politischen Wirkung. 1971.

Der Bürger und seine Stimme (essays and speeches). 1974.

Denkzettel: Politische Reden und Aufsätze 1965-1976. 1978.

Aufsätze zur literatur. 1980.

Wiederstand lernen. 1984.

On Writing and Politics 1967-1983. 1985.

Meine grüne Wiese: Kurzprosa [My Green Meadow: Short Prose]. 1987.

Zunge zeigen. 1988; as Show Your Tongue, 1989.

Deutscher lastenausgleich: Wider das dumpfe Einheitsgebot: Reden und Gespräche. 1990; as Two States—One Nation, 1990.

Ein Schnäppchen namens DDR: Letzte Reden vom

Glockengeläut. 1990. Gegen die verstreichende Zeit: Reden, Aufsätze, und Gespräche, 1989-1991. 1991.

Meine grüne Wiese: Geschichten und Zeichnungen [My Green Meadow: Stories and Drawings]. 1992.

Cat and Mouse and Other Writings, edited by A. Leslie Willson. 1994.

Die deutschen und ihre Dichter. 1995.

Meine grüne Wiese: Kurzprosa und Geschichten [My Green Meadow: Short Prose and Stories] 1997.

Fundsachen für Nichtleser. 1997.

Fünf Jahrzehnte: Ein Werkstattbericht, edited by G. Fritze Margull. 2001.


Film Adaptations:

Katz und Maus, 1966; Die Blechtrommel, 1979 (as Le Tambour, 1979, and Tin Drum, 1979); Die Rättin (television), 1997.


Günter Grass: A Bibliography, 1955-1975 by Patrick O'Neill, 1976.

Critical Studies:

Günter Grass: A Critical Essay by Norris Wilson Yates, 1967; Günter Grass by W. Gordon Cunliffe, 1969; Günter Grass by Kurt Lothar Tank, 1969; Günter Grass by Iréne Leonard, 1974; Günter Grass' The Tin Drum: A Critical Commentary by John D. Simons, 1974; Günter Grass by Keith Miles, 1975; The 'Danzig trilogy' of Günter Grass: A Study of The Tin Drum, Cat and Mouse, and Dog Years by John Reddick, 1975; Günter Grass: Wort, Zahl, Gott by Michael Harscheidt, 1976; Günter Grass: The Literature of Politics by A.V. Subiotto, 1978; Günter Grass: The Writer in a Pluralist Society by Michael Hollington, 1980; Günter Grass in America: The Early Years by Ray Lewis White, 1981; Adventures of a Flounder: Critical Essays on Günter Grass' Der Butt, edited by Gertrud Bauer Pickar, 1982; The Narrative Works of Günter Grass: A Critical Interpretation, 1982, and Günter Grass: Katz und Maus, 1992, both by Noel Thomas; "The Fisherman and His Wife": Günter Grass's The Flounder in Critical Perspective, edited by Siegfried Mews, 1983; Günter Grass by Richard H. Lawson, 1985; Günter Grass by Ronald Hayman, 1985; Critical Essays on Günter Grass, edited by Patrick O'Neill, 1987; Understanding Günter Grass by Alan Frank Keele, 1988; Günter Grass His Critics by Siegfried Mews, 1996; Günter Grass' "ein weites feld" and the German Democratic Republic by Hans-Dieter Senff, 1998; Metaphors in Grass' Die Blechtrommel by Antoinette T. Delaney, 1999; Günter Grass Revisited by Patrick O'Neill, 1999; A Study of the Life and Works of Günter Grass by Julian Preece, 2000.

* * *

The German writer and artist Günter Grass has published numerous works of literature as well as collections of essays, commentaries, letters, speeches, interviews, and paintings and drawings. He has been the winner of major awards, including the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999. He was made an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, served as the president of the Berlin Academy of Arts (1983-86), and received honorary doctorates from Kenyon College (1965), Harvard University (1976), and the universities of Poznan (1990) and Gdansk (1993) in Poland.

Grass's first novel, Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum ), published in 1959, has become one of the best-known works of world literature. In 1961 he published Katz und Maus (Cat and Mouse ), followed by Hundejahre (Dog Years ) in 1963. This so-called Danzig Trilogy deals with the problems of Vergangenheitsbewältigung, that is, the coming to terms with the Nazi past and its heinous crimes against the Jewish and Polish people. Grass's readers have sometimes called him—without his approval—the "conscience of the nation."

In 1969 Grass published Örtlich betäubt (Local Anaesthetic ), a book that criticized the fanatic Nazi past as well as the radical elements in some ideologies of the 1960s. He documented a politically active period in his campaign novel Aus dem Tagebuch einer Schnecke (From the Diary of a Snail ). Published in 1972, the book reflected Grass's sympathy for the Social Democratic Party (SPD) under Willy Brandt (1913-92), who became one of his best friends. The novel also retraces the horrible fate of the Jews from Danzig (now Gdansk). Five years later, in 1977, there appeared the epic novel Der Butt (The Flounder ), a satirical account of the war between the sexes. A fictitious meeting between German baroque poets is the setting for Das Treffen in Telgte (Meeting at Telgte ), published in 1979. Grass's concept of a Kulturnation, that is, the premise that cultural heritage determines national identity, emerged in this work. The following year his novel Kopfgeburten (Headbirths ) signified the beginning of a new phase, sometimes referred to as Grass's "Orwellian decade." Other literary and artistic creations during the 1980s included Die Rättin (1986; The Rat ), Zunge zeigen (1988; Show Your Tongue ), and Totes Holz (1990; Dead Wood ).

Global problems such as the nuclear arms race, the growth of population in developing countries, and the alarming increase in environmental pollution have been among the most important issues for Grass. The Rat explores these issues in depth, and the author demonstrates the urgency of a higher ethical standard in dealing with modern global crises. Trips to India and China, as well as publications by Brandt and the Club of Rome, strongly influenced his reflections on the struggles of the Third World in The Flounder, Headbirths, The Rat, and Show Your Tongue. The last is a travelogue in which drawings of "pavement dwellers" accompany a literary account of the lives of people who have little hope.

In Unkenrufe (1992; The Call of the Toad ) Grass went beyond the bleak imagery of the 1980s, with German-Polish relations and the reunification of Germany forming the fabric for a fictive love story. Ein weites Feld (1995; Wide Field ), which was torn apart by critics, contrasts writing and politics. Leading up to its publication, Grass wrote a number of essays and made public appearances against the efforts at German reunification. Mein Jahrhundert (1999; My Century ), which portrays the twentieth century in chronological order, is written from a personal point of view.

Grass's works have been both applauded and criticized. Nevertheless, they have always been noticed, especially in times when not very many people wanted to hear or read about the German past of National Socialism and the Holocaust. Grass's international fame has been underscored by the Nobel Prize and the fact that all of his works have been translated into English.

—Mark Gruettner

See the essays on From the Diary of a Snail and The Tin Drum.