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Günter Grass

Günter Grass

Noble Prize winner, Günter Grass was a popular icon of the German generation growing up under the Nazi period of influence. His objective as a writer was to restore and revive the spirit of humanity. Günter Grass was born in Gdansk, Poland on October 16, 1927 to a German father and Kashubian mother. In his younger years, Grass was a member of Hitler Youth. He was injured in the Second World War and also kept captive as a prisoner of war from 1944-1946 after which he worked as a miner and a farm laborer. He was also studying art at the same time in Düsseldorf and Berlin. From 1956 through 1959 Gunter managed his expenses by sculpting, drawing and writing. Grass published his poetry for the first time in 1956 followed by producing a play in 1957.

Grass obtained his first international recognition in 1959 when Blechtrommel better known as The Tin Drum, his most memorable novel was published. The Tin Drum is a story about a young boy living the Nazi years in Germany who bangs a toy drum to record his protest. This wave creating novel was the first part of the Danzig Trilogy which was later completed by Cat and Mouse (1961) and Dog Years (1963). The Tin Drum won Grass a Noble Prize in 1999.

After The Tin Drum, Grass started writing aggressively and also took an active part in German politics by ghostwriting for the election campaigns of Social Democrats and Willy Brandt. The Citizen and His Voice is a collection of his political works. Grass dreamed of a Germany free from totalitarian ideologies. In his books such as Local Anesthetic, From the Diary of a Snail and The Plebeians Rehearse the Uprising he urged the educated and intellectual Germans to take responsibility and play their part. His affection towards his childhood home Gdansk is evident in The Flounder and The Rat. Günter Grass explores the collapse of communism and the fall of the Berlin wall in Ein weites Feld. An interesting effort, In My Century by Günter Grass takes the reader on a journey through the history of the past century from Grass’s viewpoint. At an interview while promoting his autobiography, Peeling The Onion, Grass admitted to being a member of the Waffen-SS.

In addition to the Nobel Prize, Grass received a number of other prestigious awards namely Preis der Gruppe 47 1958, Le meilleur livre étranger 1962, the Büchner Prize 1965, the Fontane Prize 1968, Premio Internazionale Mondello 1977, the Alexander-Majakowski Medal, Gdansk 1979, the Antonio Feltrinelli Prize 1982 and Großer Literaturpreis der Bayerischen Akademie 1994. With honorary doctorates from Kenyon College and the Universities of Harvard, Poznan and Gdansk, Günter Grass was also the President of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin 1983-86. He actively took interest in world politics and did not cease to voice his opinions on happenings around him. In his later life he was sometimes seen at Gdansk at the university as a guest speaker, attending presentation or premiers. He died on April 13, 2015, in Lübeck, Germany at the age of 87.

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