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The publication of The Tin Drum in 1959 launched Günter Grass as an author of international repute. Bitter and impassioned, it delivers a scathing dissection of the years from 1925 to 1955 through the eyes of Oskar Matzerath, the dwarf whose manic beating on the toy of his retarded childhood fantastically counterpoints the accumulating horrors of Germany and Poland under The publication of The Tin Drum in 1959 launched Günter Grass as an author of international repute. Bitter and impassioned, it delivers a scathing dissection of the years from 1925 to 1955 through the eyes of Oskar Matzerath, the dwarf whose manic beating on the toy of his retarded childhood fantastically counterpoints the accumulating horrors of Germany and Poland under the Nazis.


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The publication of The Tin Drum in 1959 launched Günter Grass as an author of international repute. Bitter and impassioned, it delivers a scathing dissection of the years from 1925 to 1955 through the eyes of Oskar Matzerath, the dwarf whose manic beating on the toy of his retarded childhood fantastically counterpoints the accumulating horrors of Germany and Poland under The publication of The Tin Drum in 1959 launched Günter Grass as an author of international repute. Bitter and impassioned, it delivers a scathing dissection of the years from 1925 to 1955 through the eyes of Oskar Matzerath, the dwarf whose manic beating on the toy of his retarded childhood fantastically counterpoints the accumulating horrors of Germany and Poland under the Nazis.

30 review for The Tin Drum

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tia

    I had an intense reaction to this book. I friggin hated it. Or, rather, I loved to hate it, while I was reading it. It was an assignment in a Postmodern Lit. class, and everyone in the class liked the protagonist but me. I thought he was awful. I couldn't believe they enjoyed him, much less admitted to enjoying him. But some part of me must have understood. ...That was the point. This is a story I felt in my stomach. It was so full of perversion, of the grotesque, and I was 20 and a "good girl" I had an intense reaction to this book. I friggin hated it. Or, rather, I loved to hate it, while I was reading it. It was an assignment in a Postmodern Lit. class, and everyone in the class liked the protagonist but me. I thought he was awful. I couldn't believe they enjoyed him, much less admitted to enjoying him. But some part of me must have understood. ...That was the point. This is a story I felt in my stomach. It was so full of perversion, of the grotesque, and I was 20 and a "good girl" and wanted so badly to not be drawn to it but there I was, ploughing through. Disgusted with so much along the way, but to my great surprise I found myself touched. I cried for a character I thought I was completely repelled by. I couldn't believe it. And at the end, when I reached the last page, when I finished and shut the book...I was grateful. Not to have finished it; I was grateful that I got to read it in the first place. There are awful images and episodes that stick with me. It is not pleasant to revisit them. But you know what? With every bit of my smiley, idealistic being I say...Thank God. (Or, rather, Thank Grass.) There isn't always easy beauty, or recognizable beauty around us. Oftentimes the beauty is buried in dirt and hard-earned, and doesn't even look like anything lovely at all once you get to it. But you hold it in your hands and it will move you. And if you're lucky, it will change you.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    462. Die Blechtrommel = The Tin Drum, Günter Grass The Tin Drum, is a 1959 novel, by Günter Grass. The novel is the first book of Grass's Danziger Trilogie (Danzig Trilogy), and winner of the Nobel Prize in literature. It was adapted into a 1979 film, which won both the Palme d'Or, in the same year, and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film the following year. The story revolves around the life of Oskar Matzerath, as narrated by himself, when confined in a mental hospital, during the 462. ‎Die Blechtrommel ‭= The Tin Drum, Günter Grass The Tin Drum, is a 1959 novel, by Günter Grass. The novel is the first book of Grass's Danziger Trilogie (Danzig Trilogy), and winner of the Nobel Prize in literature. It was adapted into a 1979 film, which won both the Palme d'Or, in the same year, and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film the following year. The story revolves around the life of Oskar Matzerath, as narrated by himself, when confined in a mental hospital, during the years 1952–1954. Born in 1924 in the Free City of Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland), with an adult's capacity for thought and perception, he decides never to grow up when he hears his father declare that he would become a grocer. Gifted with a piercing shriek that can shatter glass or be used as a weapon, Oskar declares himself to be one of those "clairaudient infants", whose "spiritual development is complete at birth and only needs to affirm itself". He retains the stature of a child while living through the beginning of World War II, several love affairs, and the world of postwar Europe. Through all this, a toy tin drum, the first of which he received as a present on his third birthday, followed by many replacement drums each time he wears one out from over-vigorous drumming, remains his treasured possession; he is willing to commit violence to retain it. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز سی ام ماه آگوست سال 2001 میلادی عنوان: طبل حلبی؛ اثر: گونتر گراس؛ برگردان: عبدارحمن صدریه؛ تهران، نشر نوقلم، چاپ دوم 1379، در 733 ص، شابک: 9649113029؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان آلمانی - سده 20 م عنوان: طبل حلبی؛ اثر: گونتر گراس؛ برگردان: سروش حبیبی؛ تهران، نیلوفر، 1380، در 793 ص، شابک: 9644481666؛ طَبلِ حَلَبی، رمانی ست به قلم «گونتر گراس»، که نخستین بار در سال 1959 میلادی، منتشر شد. این رمان در کنار دو رمان دیگر، با عنوانهای: «موش و گربه»؛ و «سال‌های سگی»؛ سه‌ گانه‌ ای را شکل می‌دهند. شخصیت اصلی رمان، پسری ست که تصمیم می‌گیرد، از سن سه سالگی بزرگ‌تر نشود؛ بنابراین در همان قد و قواره ی کودکی، باقی می‌ماند. اما از نظر فکری رشد می‌کند. افراد دور و بر این پسر، او را کودک می‌انگارند. در حالیکه او همه چیز را می‌بیند، و درک می‌کند، و هر جا که بتواند، از توانایی‌های ویژه ی خودش، برای تفریح، یا تغییر شرایط ،استفاده می‌کند. در این رمان رخدادهایی در دوران «هیتلر» آمده، که کودک نیز شاهد آنها بوده است، و نقشی در آنها ایفا کرده است. شرایط جسمی کودک، که به صورتی ناقص‌ الخلقه است، باعث آزار دیگران شده، و او از احساسات دیگران، سوء استفاده می‌کند. روایت به نوعی نشانگر شرایط زمانی جامعه ی آن دوران «آلمان» است. ا. شربیانی

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    When you hear an inner Oskar Matzerath hitting his tin drum in protest against the utter absurdity of life, you know it is time to make a choice for or against sanity. Oskar himself chose the "easy" way out, deliberately refusing to grow up and accept "moral" guidelines, and in the end, he chose the asylum as the best place to write his unreliable, yet truthful account on the brutal times he called his own. What do you do if you missed that point at age three to stop growing, but you have been When you hear an inner Oskar Matzerath hitting his tin drum in protest against the utter absurdity of life, you know it is time to make a choice for or against sanity. Oskar himself chose the "easy" way out, deliberately refusing to grow up and accept "moral" guidelines, and in the end, he chose the asylum as the best place to write his unreliable, yet truthful account on the brutal times he called his own. What do you do if you missed that point at age three to stop growing, but you have been gifted the curse of hearing the noise of the world? Sanity is a scary mindset, and hard to carry for long stretches. You tend to lose parts of it when the world heats up, and you never can be entirely sure you still have it, even when you check it every so often. "One of the requisites of sanity is to disagree with the majority of the British public." That is Oscar Wilde's conclusion, and Oskar Matzerath may well have come to the same conclusion about his own environment, in reverse: if this Germany is sane, I better be on the other team! The Tin Drum to me is one of the most oppressively true novels ever written, on equal terms with Midnight's Children or One Hundred Years of Solitude for its exploration of human irrationality and excess. In some respects it is more difficult to digest because it hits closer to home. But at the same time, it enhanced the powerful effect of the Asian and South American versions of human failure to live properly as I know from The Tin Drum that the deeper truth of chaos is a more sane description of reality than the insane project of writing "objective" accounts. Oskar is drumming at full force, and some of his naughty brothers who refused to grow up a long time ago don't have the required wisdom and sanity to get themselves locked away before causing more harm than the planet can take. Do you hear the noise?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    My reaction to finishing this book was 'thank god that's over'. I thought it was interesting in the abstract, but at times I couldn't stand reading it. The unreliable main character Oskar, decides to stop growing at the age of three . He refuses to speak, and communicates by banging on his titular drum. I gather this is supposed to reflect German societies refusal to accept the realities of the rise of Nazism and their complicity in it. But I don't really care. My problem with the book wasn't My reaction to finishing this book was 'thank god that's over'. I thought it was interesting in the abstract, but at times I couldn't stand reading it. The unreliable main character Oskar, decides to stop growing at the age of three . He refuses to speak, and communicates by banging on his titular drum. I gather this is supposed to reflect German societies refusal to accept the realities of the rise of Nazism and their complicity in it. But I don't really care. My problem with the book wasn't the confusing structure, the occasional nasty scene (don't read this book if you're planning on eating eels anytime soon) but that I just couldn't stand the writing. I'm guessing that much of the humor was lost in translation, but what irritated me the most were the lame lyrical sections. Sentences like "long after I had lain down I was still standing on coconut fibres, and that is why I was unable to sleep; for nothing is more stimulating, more sleep-dispelling, more thought provoking than standing barefoot on a coconut fiber map" are pretty much bullshit (and it doesn't help that I heard Werner Herzog in my head when I read them). And there are a lot of them in this book. There's not enough realism to make the magic interesting. The crazy characters are intersting and funny at first, but there's no connection between them, and after a while their strangeness gets boring and repetitive. I really wanted to like this book, and I know a lot of people love it, but I'm never reading this one again. Maybe I'll try the movie.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Beata

    One of those books you read and remember them after years of reading masses of other books. A masterpiece...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jr Bacdayan

    Heil, Oskar Koljaiczek Matzerath-Bronski! The drummer! The magical three-year-old! The hunchback! The Jesus! The Satan! The Goethe! The Rasputin! The arsonist reincarnate! The student! The destroyer of glass! The tempter! The Skat ace! The bane of propaganda assemblies! The war veteran! The Catholic! The disciple maker! The choir boy! The fizz blower! The father! The prodigal son! The entertainer! The tombstone engraver! The art model! The devotee of nurses! The jazz musician! The star! The Heil, Oskar Koljaiczek Matzerath-Bronski! The drummer! The magical three-year-old! The hunchback! The Jesus! The Satan! The Goethe! The Rasputin! The arsonist reincarnate! The student! The destroyer of glass! The tempter! The Skat ace! The bane of propaganda assemblies! The war veteran! The Catholic! The disciple maker! The choir boy! The fizz blower! The father! The prodigal son! The entertainer! The tombstone engraver! The art model! The devotee of nurses! The jazz musician! The star! The lover! The dog-walker extraordinaire! The friend! The accused! The insane! The man! He comes to us as a baby, yet he stays in our hearts a legend. This little boy-man that breaks every rule of humanity yet is the epitome of humanity itself. How does he do it? A tin drum in his arms, he echoes a steady beat that moves one to lose track of the pretenses we mask ourselves with. He reduces this farce we call sanity to rubble. Bladder control shattered, heart rate rising, laughter spouting, everyone surrenders. We all are born again drenched in sweats and stink. Who is he again, you ask? He is you and me. You see, all of us, like Herr Oskar, start fresh thinking ourselves timelessly young, forever denying adulthood, jesters forever being three-year-olds. We not-so-young keep adulthood at bay, a bunch of Peter Pans frolicking around the world, being silly happy, irresponsible, doing what we want, persons stuck in an age where we are merely infants, barely kids. No regard for what others think, no imparity in our straightforward vision, we arm ourselves with nothing but a tin-drum, the distilled pureness of life, a weapon against the mockery and scorn of adulthood, this sickness called youth. But then life forces us to grow up. It might be like Oskar, the death of his last remaining parent. It might be something else, something really painful. But we all bury our tin-drums and we change. We become hunchbacks, disfigured, compared to our youthful selves. Our vision, our passions they dry up and we go through life doing odd jobs, supporting our family, raising children, eating, drinking, watching movies instead of traveling, not that there’s anything wrong with this kind of life. It’s just what happens. We compromise, make the most out of the situation. That’s life for you. Given enough time, often too much time, we rediscover our youthful passions and we learn to drum again, to enjoy, to travel. But by that time the black cook called death is looming just around the corner. Singing: Ha! Ha! Ha! But considering this, even if Oskar’s life turned out this way, look up at what all he accomplished. It ain’t too bad, huh? This story of a magical little man is the embodiment of the human experience. His disparate experiences which will make you laugh, feel pain, confusion, anger and a whole motley crew of other emotions is the ultimate story of man in a backdrop of extremes yet is the story of a person who chose to live life in his own terms. He illustrates that survival is not a circumstantial matter but rather a mindset you choose to adapt. The human life with its virulent jumps through time is ever unfathomable, ever mystifying. We will never know what will happen to us nor understand why these things happen. The journey we take is wreathed with puzzling events and painful moments, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t have its beams of joy. The odd assortment of sentiments life makes us experience is ultimately what being human is. You smile and laugh when you feel happy and cry when you are pierced by pain. It’s choosing which moments to memorialize in our minds, which thoughts to make magical that will make the difference. Let’s hope that these moments find us. Let’s pray that we, like Oskar, find our own tin drums that will give a steady beat of purpose to our hearts. Drum away all the unnecessary baggage and crosses. Let go of your circumscribed thoughts and enjoy the thrilling, pounding moments life has to offer. Let’s laugh. Let’s dance. Let’s make magic. And magic is all about believing. *drumrolls please* Gunter Grass’ 1999 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to him: "whose frolicsome black fables portray the forgotten face of history". Good ole Oskar was living in a period of war, but Grass tells us that the fable of life no matter how dark can always be fun. It’s just a matter of rolling with it. Life’s a hoot ain’t it?

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sidharth Vardhan

    Onions and Potatos In the very first chapter, I was reminded of Midnight Children because of Oscar's conversational tone of narrative - same as that of Saleem Shinai. Once MC was in my mind couldn't help locating similarities - both narrators start their stories with the first meeting of their maternal grandparents, both like talking about sex, both of them feel need to hide from the world (Oskar in grandmother's skirts, Shinai in laundry box) etc. Still there are enough differences, MC is Onions and Potatos In the very first chapter, I was reminded of Midnight Children because of Oscar's conversational tone of narrative - same as that of Saleem Shinai. Once MC was in my mind couldn't help locating similarities - both narrators start their stories with the first meeting of their maternal grandparents, both like talking about sex, both of them feel need to hide from the world (Oskar in grandmother's skirts, Shinai in laundry box) etc. Still there are enough differences, MC is more magical realism, Tin Drum is more about unreliable narrator Unreliable Narrator Why would you consider a narrator unreliable ? He is out of mind or delusional, he is a habitual liar, he is full of inferiority or superiority complexes, he had lied to you before, he is full of guilt. Oscar fulfills all these conditions. The book begins with lines: "GRANTED: I AM an inmate of a mental hospital; my keeper is watching me, he never lets me out of his sight." He has lied to his family half his life. He himself corrects lies he has told you half a book before - putting an asterisk on everything he says. He tells you he deliberately stopped growing - and faked an accident to provide the world reason for that. The fact that a lot of information comes from his drum is not too much satisfying either. He is using both first-person pronouns and his name to talk about himself - at times in the same sentence. Hence you must take everything he says with a pinch, correction a bowl full of salt. It is funny to see how whenever you find a reason to doubt a declaration he wants to maintain, he would run to explanations - as if he was telling you his story face-to-face and had seen you rise your eye-brow in doubt. His schizophrenia, self-obsession, and complexes though won't stop him from being witty - every page of the book has some really witty play of words on it. At times, it gets a bit trying but Oscar is too busy showing off to care about your time. War and War guilt I look for the land of the Poles that is lost to the Germans, for the moment at least. Nowadays the Germans have started searching for Poland with credits, Leicas, and compasses, with radar, divining rods, delegations, and moth-eaten provincial students' associations in costume. Some carry Chopin in their hearts, others thoughts of revenge. Condemning the first four partitions of Poland, they are busily planning a fifth; in the meantime flying to Warsaw via Air France in order to deposit, with appropriate remorse, a wreath on the spot that was once the ghetto. One of these days they will go searching for Poland with rockets. I meanwhile, conjure up Poland on my drum. And this is what I drum : Poland's lost, but not forever, all are lost, but not forever, Poland's not lost forever. War as such doesn't show up much in the book except a few chapters it contains no soldiers and guns. I don't think concentration camps were mentioned even once. There are some allegorical elements - Oscar's mother (the source of harmony in his world) dies at onset of war, Oscar polish uncle (whom he calls his biological father) dies when Poland falls to Russians and his German father dies with fall of Germany trying to swallow Nazi party pin. Wartime madness mostly shows up in sexual madness. Oscar's is attracted alternatively to Rasputin and Goethe in R-G-R-G sequence which seems to show Germany's WWI-peace-WWII-peace sequence. During the war, Oscar gain popularity as an artist who could break glasses through his voice (showing how much Germans loved being shouted at) while after war it is his drumming (the creative art) that gets prominence. An entire credulous nation believed, there's faith for you, in Santa Claus. But Santa Claus was really the gas man. However this book uses war references in a different context just as some fiction books refers to classics. Oskar is a dwarf with a glass-breaking voice - and in one scene is seen shouting at enchanted people (can you imagine some dwarf with a loud, destructive and seductive voice?). His favorite toy is Tin Drum - a common sight in war times, for armies marched on sound of drums. His mother was a nurse and he too has a fetish for nurses, red cross nurses; another common sight in WWII. He may as well have served as war Mascot. Like Oscar's drumming, It could have been a more enchanting book for people who have lived through the war - unlike me who has to google out everything. Oscar doesn't much like Hitler, but he has a love-hate relationship with Jesus (Hitler's title 'Fuhrer' literally means guardian; so does the word 'Christ') - depending upon his mood he doesn't believe in Jesus, believes in Jesus, is a messenger of Jesus, is Jesus himself, is father of Jesus etc. In another scene, our dwarf hero is seen leading his street gangs to invade church (Hitler brought down synagogues). The later half of the book is full of symbols of war guilt. Besides German father's death in trying to swallow Nazi pin, we have Oscar's fall in an open grave (mirroring German fall at end of war) and working as gravestone architect (too many dead in war) but no symbol is as prominent as hunchback he develops when he chose to grow-up (just a little) at the end of war. He models for painters often portrayed entirely in black with an increasingly larger hunchback while painters completely ignored his blue eyes ( comment on the complete negative portrayal of Germany after the war?). Onion cellar club showed how having lived through war, people were so full of remorse, they were out of tears and needed to peel onions to be able to weep. An aggressive indifference The clash between art and war is a constant theme: They are coming," he whispered. "They will take over the meadows where we pitch our tents. They will organize torchlight parades. They will build rostrums and fill them, and down from the rostrums, they will preach our destruction. Take care, young man. Always take care to be sitting on the rostrum and never to be standing out in front of it." Beethoven's big painting in Oscar's house has to give up its supreme position when Oscar's parents had to put in Hitler's painting. Beethoven was an artist and was deaf, deaf to the Hitler shouting in front of him. That somewhat sums Oscar's attitude towards war. He is indifferent to what happens around him, somewhat like Albert Campus and his Stranger - but in Oscar, this indifference is too aggressive, almost insane. He refused to grow up because he thought grownups were evil and he is constantly running away from the world, looking for solitude - in grandma's skirts, under the table his three parents are playing cards on or inside some almirah. When there is firing going outside, Oskar spends his time playing cards inside. He risks his claimed biological father's life for a new drum - repeatedly. He betrays both his fathers and his street-gang-followers to save himself. When his whole family is facing a life threat, he is too busy watching the trail of ants on ground. This indifference attracts an equal indifference from us. It is really difficult to sympathize with this guy. At times he seems to be trying to make it difficult for us to relate to him - this book can be a thousand things, but it is definitively not a melodrama. On the size of the book You may think that with over 550 pages or this long review, it is a long book - do not be deluded by that; through its witty pose, it becomes a much, much, much longer book, almost Dickens long. Like Dickens, Grass seemed to have perfected each chapter separately with too much detail and wit, rather than trying to keep a natural flow which makes you go to next chapter as soon as you finish one.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    Re-visit 2015: Günter Grass, Nobel-winning German novelist, dies aged 87 Description: Danzig in the 1920s/1930s. Oskar Matzerath, son of a local dealer, is a most unusual boy. Equipped with full intellect right from his birth he decides at his third birthday not to grow up as he sees the crazy world around him at the eve of World War II. So he refuses the society and his tin drum symbolizes his protest against the middle-class mentality of his family and neighborhood, which stand for all passive Re-visit 2015: Günter Grass, Nobel-winning German novelist, dies aged 87 Description: Danzig in the 1920s/1930s. Oskar Matzerath, son of a local dealer, is a most unusual boy. Equipped with full intellect right from his birth he decides at his third birthday not to grow up as he sees the crazy world around him at the eve of World War II. So he refuses the society and his tin drum symbolizes his protest against the middle-class mentality of his family and neighborhood, which stand for all passive people in Nazi Germany at that time. However, (almost) nobody listens to him, so the catastrophe goes on... Did you spot Charles Aznavour in there!? Powerful film of a powerful novel. Sherbet fizz Re-Read details: As Hitler rises to power, three-year-old Oskar decides he doesn't want to grow up. Stars Phil Daniels and Kenneth Cranham. Broadcast on: blurb - Classic novel of the rise and fall of Hitler as seen through the eyes of the dwarfish narrator, Oskar Matzerath. Not caring for the world he is growing up in, a small boy determines to remain a child. The epic sweep of Grass' novel satirises German nationalism and the rise and fall of the Nazi movement. ___ Brilliant portrayal of a youngster in denial of real-life. This theme has been loosely followed up in Cabaret and Pan's Labyrinth.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jeb

    The plot, characters, and setting are all top-notch, but what makes Drum a stellar read is its tone. A reviewer might have described it as 'sardonically irreverant' had not Waiting for Guffman been the source of the phrase. Dripping with arrogance and wit against a macabre backdrop, The Tin Drum follows our sturdy-at-three-feet protagonist Oskar from his vivid recollections of his own birth through Hitler's occupations of Danzig, DE and Oskar's familial Poland through many other no doubt The plot, characters, and setting are all top-notch, but what makes Drum a stellar read is its tone. A reviewer might have described it as 'sardonically irreverant' had not Waiting for Guffman been the source of the phrase. Dripping with arrogance and wit against a macabre backdrop, The Tin Drum follows our sturdy-at-three-feet protagonist Oskar from his vivid recollections of his own birth through Hitler's occupations of Danzig, DE and Oskar's familial Poland through many other no doubt exciting and bleak adventures that I haven't yet encountered in reading. A tangent on the tone: Oskar's concern for his selfish desires while bullets are firing around him, etc. make me laugh, but also make me remember in different contexts how I reacted to the most horrific events of my own lifetime. I kept a diary in middle school and took great care to document events like the OKC bombing with the utmost reverence and professionalism. But the truth was, the day of the bombing sucked because we had to wait outside in our show choir dresses in the rain because some kid called in a copycat bomb threat to our school the same day. And that's the side of the story that The Tin Drum presents; that's what separates this story from so many others written with similar subject matter and makes this one the diamond in the rough. Quickly, one other observation-or-tangent before I get back to reading (or watching Letterman): I've been reading up on my Greek and Roman gods to get better at crosswords, and just the other day, I read the story of Cupid. Cupid (aka Eros), the god of Love, is depicted as a child, like a tiny cherub. Cupid was a mama's boy (mama = Venus) and never left her side. Venus was worried that her son would never grow, but some wise god or other told her that Cupid would never grow until he himself found love. And until then, Cupid was a mischievous god: he would shoot his arrows at people to make them fall in love, yes, but he would often shoot at people who were mismatched or who didn't want to fall in love. He was never without his arrows and went on, rooted somewhere between love and mischief, until he fell in love with-- oh, I forget who it was. But you can see the parallels! I believe that Grass's Oskar is the story of Cupid told through a series of anecdotes set in WWII Germany. I bet Grass as a young child was obsessed with the story of Cupid and his struggle between right and wrong the way young Oskar is obsessed with reading the contrasting material of Rasputin and Goethe. And in art, Cupid is repeatedly depicted as a young (naked) boy of 3 or 4 with fair skin and shiny golden locks...exactly like Oskar and exactly like the semblance of Jesus upon which Oskar is fixated. I have to believe that Grass-the-author married his own childhood obsession with the mischeivous physically stunted Cupid with a tongue in cheek account of his own wartime experiences and yielded one of the greatest works of the twentieth century. But hey, it's just a theory.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Erwin

    "Granted: I'm an inmate in a mental institution." This opening line prepared me only a little to what was to come: a challenging, weird, unbelievable and extraordinary story. Oskar's drums and his drumming may still "haunt" me for some time after finishing his story. I am lost for more words here but one: recommended!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mona

    Funny, Brechtian Story of a Murderous Dwarf who is a Genius Drummer This is a tough book to review. The story uses Brecht's concept of distancing to keep us from identifying with the characters. The tale takes place in Germany and Poland, before, during, and after World War II. The main character and narrator is Oskar Matzerath, a dwarf (and later on, a hunchbacked dwarf), who develops a precocious genius for drumming as a toddler. His parents supply him with toy tin drums (which he wears out with Funny, Brechtian Story of a Murderous Dwarf who is a Genius Drummer This is a tough book to review. The story uses Brecht's concept of distancing to keep us from identifying with the characters. The tale takes place in Germany and Poland, before, during, and after World War II. The main character and narrator is Oskar Matzerath, a dwarf (and later on, a hunchbacked dwarf), who develops a precocious genius for drumming as a toddler. His parents supply him with toy tin drums (which he wears out with his incessant drumming). Hence, the title. Oskar is born in Danzig (also known as Gdansk), the sometimes German but most often Polish, city on the Baltic coast. Unbeknownst to the clueless adults around him who think he's retarded, is born with the cognitive faculties of an adult. He becomes a dwarf because he decides to stop growing at age three to avoid having to work in his family's grocery store. The hunchback shows up later, after an illness when he is older. Oskar tells us that at his baptism in the local Catholic church he deliberately does not renounce Satan (which the adults present, including his putative father, Jan Bronski attribute to his "retardation). Actually, Oskar wants to keep his relationship with Satan and not denounce it. After the baptism, Oskar whispers to Satan (who seems to be alive and well within him): "Did you make it through?" (through the Baptism he means). 'Satan hopped up and down and whispered, "Did you see those church windows, Oskar? All glass, all glass!" This refers to Oskar's ability (also unknown to the adults, except his mother) to "sing shatter" glass, that is to sing a high note which shatters glass. Oskar goes on to live a life of crime, including committing several murders. He also wins acclaim, later in life, for his prodigious talent as a drummer. (view spoiler)[Oskar desecrates more than a few churches, including the scene of his baptism, by shattering the windows and helping steal the sacred objects. He heads up a local boys' gang, and he is directly or indirectly responsible for the murders or deaths of nearly everyone close to him. He harasses and terrifies the poor nurse, Sister Dorothea. Oskar expresses some remorse and sorrow for them, but it seems these are mostly "crocodile tears". (hide spoiler)] He seems to have the capacity to survive no matter what (part of his deal with the Devil?), for example, producing a precious necklace (supposedly a gift) from its hiding place at the very moment he needs to flee his home. At one point, Oskar decides he wants to take refuge from the world in a Mental Hospital with comfy beds. So he manipulates a "friend" into betraying him and accusing him of a murder he did not commit. After his lawyer exonerates him and he is let out of the mental institution, he contemplates going to America, where his grandfather (an arsonist) might be living. There are many other characters in this colorful, picaresque tale. There are Oskar's various loves, the full sized Maria (who might be the father of Oskar's presumed son, Kurt, a "chip off the old block"--a total brat who hits and punches his "dad") and the deceased Roswitha, another dwarf. There is his "master", Bebra, who enlists Oskar to join his travelling show at one point and at a later time, contracts him to play concerts throughout Germany. There is Bruno, Oskar's attendant in the loony bin There is the elegant Jan Bronski, Oskar's mother's lover. (She is married to Matzerath). There is Oskar's beloved mother herself, and his Kashubian grandmother, who grows potatoes and always wears four skirts. And so on...there are many minor characters too. During the War, Oskar supports either the Polish opposition or the Nazis (even though he doesn't particularly like the Nazis), depending on what's convenient for him. Oskar is clearly a villain. He commits multiple crimes, including many murders (direct and indirect), vandalism, theft, etc. He's vain, selfish, malicious, cruel and an accomplished liar. He's diabolically clever and comes out on top no matter what befalls him. But for some reason we don't hate him. He is a weird and amusing fellow. He's also an excellent story teller. Is he a mirror of the dark side in all of us? I've read somewhere that Oskar symbolizes Nazism. Maybe, but I think Fascism would be closer to the mark. Germany falls through and so he wants to go to America. So America will become the new Fascist state? Paul Michael Garcia does a decent job as the audio reader. I followed along in the ebook as I listened to the audio. Update: I recently found out that Gunter Grass was a member of the Nazi party in Hitler's Germany.. He hid and denied this most of his life and in fact spent much of his later life denouncing the Nazis. So the author's real life story resembles that of Oskar in a way. Like Oskar, he was an opportunist.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Elie F

    Painful because what is presented as entertainment is actually crime. Disturbing because what is responded by laughter should be responded by tears. This is a world unaware of its crime, and in the aftermath of the atrocity unable to mourn. There are a lot of brilliant use of symbolisms. The one that stuck with me the most is the peep hole Bruno used to observe Oskar which resembles the peep hole equipped in gas chamber to observe the struggle of the dying. To end with a quote: "Our kind has no Painful because what is presented as entertainment is actually crime. Disturbing because what is responded by laughter should be responded by tears. This is a world unaware of its crime, and in the aftermath of the atrocity unable to mourn. There are a lot of brilliant use of symbolisms. The one that stuck with me the most is the peep hole Bruno used to observe Oskar which resembles the peep hole equipped in gas chamber to observe the struggle of the dying. To end with a quote: "Our kind has no place in the audience. We must perform, we must run the show. If we don’t, it’s the others that run us. And they don’t do it with kid gloves...Take care young man. Always take care to be sitting on the rostrum and never to be standing out in front of it."

  13. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    I knew this book is good, but I had no idea it were that good. The novel that is not novel On the surface, this is a fairly simple, easy to read book. It's the first novel by Günter Grass and it was published in 1959. You would think an author of this caliber would produce something that has a sophisticated (or should I say complicated?) style, something awesome, something the literary world would have a hard time explaining. But — he didn't. Grass obviously wasn't very fond of this. Right at the I knew this book is good, but I had no idea it were that good. The novel that is not novel On the surface, this is a fairly simple, easy to read book. It's the first novel by Günter Grass and it was published in 1959. You would think an author of this caliber would produce something that has a sophisticated (or should I say complicated?) style, something awesome, something the literary world would have a hard time explaining. But — he didn't. Grass obviously wasn't very fond of this. Right at the beginning he lets his narrator issue the following statement about the so-called "crisis" of modern novel: Man kann eine Geschichte in der Mitte beginnen und vorwärts wie rückwärts kühn ausschreitend Verwirrung anstiften. Man kann sich modern geben, alle Zeiten, Entfernungen wegstreichen und hinterher verkünden oder verkünden lassen, man habe endlich und in letzter Stunde das Raum-Zeit-Problem gelöst. Man kann auch ganz zu Anfang behaupten, es sei heutzutage unmöglich, einen Roman zu schreiben, dann aber, sozusagen hinter dem eigenen Rücken, einen kräftigen Knüller hinlegen, um schließlich als letztmöglicher Romanschreiber dazustehn. Auch habe ich mir sagen lassen, daß es sich gut und bescheiden ausnimmt, wenn man anfangs beteuert: Es gibt keine Romanhelden mehr, weil es keine Individualisten mehr gibt, weil die Individualität verlorengegangen, weil der Mensch einsam, jeder Mensch gleich einsam, ohne Recht auf individuelle Einsamkeit ist und eine namen- und heldenlose einsame Masse bildet. Das mag alles so sein und seine Richtigkeit haben. Für mich, Oskar, und meinen Pfleger Bruno möchte ich jedoch feststellen: Wir beide sind Helden, ganz verschiedene Helden, er hinter dem Guckloch, ich vor dem Guckloch; und wenn er die Tür aufmacht, sind wir beide, bei aller Freundschaft und Einsamkeit, noch immer keine namen- und heldenlose Masse. You can start a story in the middle, then strike out boldly backward and forward to create confusion. You can be modern, delete all reference to time and distance, and then proclaim or let someone else proclaim that at the eleventh hour you've finally solved the space-time problem. Or you can start by declaring that novels can no longer be written, and then, behind your own back as it were, produce a mighty blockbuster that establishes you as the last of the great novelists. I've also been told it makes a good impression to begin modestly by asserting that novels no longer have heroes because individuals have ceased to exist, that individualism is a thing of the past, that all human beings are lonely, all equally lonely, with no claim to individual loneliness, that they all form some nameless mass devoid of heroes. All that may be true. But as far as I and my keeper Bruno are concerned, I beg to state that we are both heroes, quite different heroes, he behind his peephole, I in front of it; and that when he opens the door, the two of us, for all our friendship and loneliness, are still far from being some nameless mass devoid of heroes. The hero who is not heroic So we do have a self-proclaimed hero here, something like that anyway, and his name is Matzerath, Oskar Matzerath. And this is his=story. Oskar sits in the center of it, everything else circles around him like moths around light-bulbs. Oskar is the smallest (as in body) and biggest (as in ego) "hero" I've ever encountered. At the tender age of three he decides to quit growing. His body length remains a convenient 96 centimeters (roughly 3 foot 2). This is convenient for him because a) he is treated by his parents, neighbors, and strangers as a small child and b) he is able time and again to return to some kind of embryonic state. His favorite places for this are under the skirts of his grandma, under tables, and in cupboards. From there he experiences the world around (or above) him, drawing his conclusions, growing intellectually. For quite some time Oskar doesn't speak and his means of communication are drumming (more on that later) and screaming in a way that makes glass burst. Danzig Oskar is born in 1927 and growing up (or not growing up) in a suburb of the city of Danzig. Today this city is called Gdańsk and belongs to Poland. Back then the situation was more complicated. The official name of Danzig between 1920 and 1939 was Free City of Danzig. Located at the Baltic Sea, with borders to the German Empire and Poland, Danzig and its surrounding settlements were declared free in 1919 in accordance to the treaty of Versailles after World War I. And if that's not complicated enough, Danzig was primarily inhabited by ethnic Germans, while Poland was given full rights to develop and maintain transportation, communication, postal services, and port facilities in the city. In hindsight it comes as no surprise that the very first acts of World War II, committed by the Germans, were the shelling of the Danzig port from the sea-side, and the attack on the Polish Post Office as part of the invasion of Poland. The latter event plays a vital part in this story, and Oskar becomes a first-hand witness of it. As a side note I like to mention that reading this chapter was a strange experience for me. I never read this novel before, of that I'm sure, and I only saw some trailers of the 1979 movie. But still I had this feeling, when I came to the chapter called The Polish Post Office, that I read it before. The images were so clear, and seemed so familiar that I have a hard time to figure out how they came to my mind in the first place. Maybe, although unlikely, we had to read this single chapter way back in school, and that I simply forgot about this fact, but I doubt it. In any case it was it was the weirdest kind of déjà-lu I ever had. Düsseldorf To avoid spoilers I have to skip a few years, many chapters, and the events of World War II, during which Oskar and his family stay in Danzig. After the war they became refugees. The scenes describing their flight in a boxcar from Danzig to West Germany are the most disturbing ones, so I better skip these too. They eventually made their way to the city of Düsseldorf, which was considered a nucleus in the early federal republic of first chancellor Konrad Adenauer. I'm on a more familiar ground here, because Düsseldorf is quite near to where I live. I can go there in less than an hour by car (if traffic allows), and I could visit the places mentioned in the book. Maybe I'll do that one time. I learned there is a small monument in appreciation of Grass and his novel in a catholic church – of all places. (There's also a statue of Oskar Matzerath in Gdańsk, sitting on a park bench, and that might give you an idea of how popular this character is.) In Düsseldorf Oskar takes on several exotic jobs including a chiseler, a – sometimes nude – model posing for art students, and a drummer (more on that later) of a jazz band. This last job takes him to a club called Zwiebelkeller (The Onion Cellar) where people are supposed to peel onions with a knife prior to the band's performances. The onions do what onions usually do when peeled and that is making the peelers cry and crying obviously didn't come naturally in what is called in the book the tear-less century. Much later, in 2006, Günter Grass published his (first) autobiographical book called Peeling The Onion . In there he remembers his early childhood in Danzig through the late 1950s right before The Tin Drum. I wonder how many tears he shed while he wrote this book (which I haven't read yet) ... quite a few I suppose. Grass also stayed in Düsseldorf for a while where he completed an internship as a stonemason before he studied graphics and sculpture at the art academy there and then he became – no, not a jazz drummer – but a writer. At the age of thirty he wrote The Tin Drum and Oskar's story ends, you probably guessed it, on Oskar's thirtieth birthday. Funny how similar some CVs are! Drumming The very first sentence in this novel is one of the most revealing ones, I think: Zugegeben: ich bin Insasse einer Heil- und Pflegeanstalt, mein Pfleger beobachtet mich, läßt mich kaum aus dem Auge; denn in der Tür ist ein Guckloch, und meines Pflegers Auge ist von jenem Braun, welches mich, den Blauäugigen, nicht durchschauen kann. Granted: I’m an inmate in a mental institution; my keeper watches me, scarcely lets me out of sight, for there’s a peephole in the door, and my keeper’s eye is the shade of brown that can’t see through blue-eyed types like me. If you ever wondered whether the narrator you're dealing with is reliable or not, here's one case where it's pretty easy to decide. Oskar Matzerath isn't reliable at all! He tells his story from this institution and he mentions far too many incredible, fantastical, events that cannot possibly be all true. Magic realism this is called, or was it realistic magic? – I never know which. Be it magical or real events Oskar is telling, you can't help but like him. And why? Because he remains looking like a small child for all of his life, and small children are supposed to invent fantastical events, don't they? In addition he always carries a toy with him and that's (finally) the titular tin drum. Although it's not the same drum all the time, because continuously drumming such a thing wears it out after a couple of weeks, and the drum has to be replaced. There's also a period of a few years when he doesn't drum at all. But the little drummer boy picks it up again and starts drumming stronger and louder than ever, in fact he says that the he is not narrating his story, but rather drumming it. I think with the tin drum device Grass found the ideal symbol for his writing. Such a thing makes a lot of noise and people can't help but hearing it. In this sense a tin drum is not much unlike a mechanical typewriter Grass used to write his manuscripts with. And Grass made a lot of noise too. With his novels against oblivion, with his articles in newspapers, with his whole being as a politically active intellectual. Of course he didn't have only friends in Germany (and elsewhere), but many adversaries as well. I also did not agree with everything he uttered, but, at the very least, what he uttered was always deliberate and worth considering. After The Tin Drum I had to re-read the eulogy for Günter Grass by John Irving, who was a dear friend of Grass, and who created his own protagonist, Owen Meany, along the lines of Oskar Matzerath."I know how Oskar feels. Günter Grass was the king of the toy merchants. Now he has left us, and he took all the toys in the world away." ________________ Update 10/16/15 Half a year after his death a bronze statue of Günter Grass was placed on a bench not far from the house in Danzig/Gdańsk where he was born. He shares this place with the (much older) statue of Oskar Matzerath. (imagesource: dpa) ________________ This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Whitaker

    *Available from KOBOBOOKS The most remarkable thing that strikes one about The Tin Drum is an absence. For a novel that so famously deals with Germany's war guilt, there is remarkably little about the war in the novel. I don't mean to say that the novel does not touch on or talk about World War II. Of course it does. There is, after all, two whole chapters dealing with the German invasion of Poland, for example, where Oskar, Jan Bronski, and a dying man play a game of cards at the Polish Post *Available from KOBOBOOKS The most remarkable thing that strikes one about The Tin Drum is an absence. For a novel that so famously deals with Germany's war guilt, there is remarkably little about the war in the novel. I don't mean to say that the novel does not touch on or talk about World War II. Of course it does. There is, after all, two whole chapters dealing with the German invasion of Poland, for example, where Oskar, Jan Bronski, and a dying man play a game of cards at the Polish Post Office while it is being attacked by German armed forces. However, for every such episode dealing with the events of WWII, there are others interspersed in between dealing with much more domestic concerns: for example, Oskar using his voice to shatter glass, Oskar's visit to the church where he climbs up onto a statue of the Madonna and Christ, and Oskar's attempt to seduce Maria with fizz powder. Moreover, unlike novels like Hans Fallada's Every Man Dies Alone or Marcus Zusak's The Book Thief where the war is the main focus of the book, the war in The Tin Drum almost seems relegated to a walk-on role. This is so much so that even episodes that deal directly with war events talk about them in an off-hand way. In the episode on the attack of the Polish Post Office, for example, the main thrust is not the fighting but Oskar's determined search in the post office for a new tin drum:Oskar got up slowly and avoiding the shattered glass, moved quietly but single-mindedly toward the wooden rack with the toys, mentally constructing a pedestal of boxes on a nursery chair, tall and stable enough to make him the new owner of a brand-new tin drum, when Kobyella's voice and then the janitor's horny hand caught up with me. I pointed to the drum in despair. Kobyella pulled me back. I stretched both arms out toward the drum. The disabled man was already weakening, was about to stretch forth his hand and grant me happiness, when machine-gun fire entered the nursery and antitank shells exploded at the main entrance; Kobyella flung me into the corner with Jan Bronski, flung himself behind his gun and loaded for a second time while my eyes remained fixed on the tin drum.And here is how he deals with Kristallnacht, where Oskar is again searching for tin drums:Once upon a time there was a grocer who closed his shop one November day because something was going on in the city, took his son Oskar by the hand and travelled with the Number Five tram to Langgasser Gate, because the synagogue there was on fire, as were those in Zoppot and Langfuhr. The synagogue was burned almost to the ground, and the firemen were making sure the fire didn't spread to the surrounding buildings. Outside the ruin, civilians and men in uniforms were piling up books, sacral objects, and strange pieces of cloth. The mound was set ablaze, and the grocer took the opportunity to warm his hands and his passions at the public fire. His son Oskar, however, seeing his father so involved and inflamed, slipped away unnoticed and hurried off toward the Arsenal Arcade, because he was worried about his drums of white and red lacquered tin. Once upon a time there was a toy merchant named Sigismund Markus, and he sold, among other things, white and red lacquered tin drums. Oskar, mentioned above, was the major customer for these tin drums, for he was a drummer by trade, and could neither live without a drum nor wished to. He hurried away from the burning synagogue to the Arsenal Arcade, for there dwelt the keeper of his drums; but he found him in a state that made it impossible for him ever to sell tin drums again in the world.Indeed, the closer he gets to the exposed raw nerve, the more oblique Grass becomes. Here is another extract on Kristallnacht:An entire gullible nation believed faithfully in Santa Claus. But Santa Claus was really the Gasman. In faith I believed it smelled of walnuts and almonds. But it smelled of gas. Soon it will be what's called first Advent. And the first and second through fourth Advent will be turned on like a gas cock, so that it smells believably of walnuts and almonds, so that all those nutcrackers can take comfort in belief: He's coming! He's coming! And who came? The Christ Child, the Saviour? Or was it the heavenly Gasman with the gas meter under his arm, ticking away.In the first extract quoted, you'll note that Grass veers from third to first person, from Oskar to I. This occurs throughout the whole book. It's a shifting of the lens, a distancing from the self that is almost schizophrenic, deliberately so. It made me think of how psychiatrists give dolls to abused children, and have the children tell their story through the doll: It didn't happen to me, it happened to dolly. There's so much more about The Tin Drum that was moving and wonderful and mind blowing: the episode with the horse's head and the eels, the two episodes at the Normandy pillboxes, the Onion Cellar… You really should read it yourself to see how Grass plays both psychiatrist and patient. I can see why he was awarded the Nobel Prize for this work. It is brilliant.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    One crazy ride. Oskar is unlike any other character you will ever read about besides maybe Tyrion Lannister maybe. The book is a comic masterpiece, a fanciful rendering of Germany during the war and after. It is part vaudeville, part absurd, part insane and like nearly all great literature impossible to classify. The movie was also unbelievably great. If you want to read one book by this Nobel laureate, I would suggest starting here - you will have a hard time putting in down. I think that it One crazy ride. Oskar is unlike any other character you will ever read about besides maybe Tyrion Lannister maybe. The book is a comic masterpiece, a fanciful rendering of Germany during the war and after. It is part vaudeville, part absurd, part insane and like nearly all great literature impossible to classify. The movie was also unbelievably great. If you want to read one book by this Nobel laureate, I would suggest starting here - you will have a hard time putting in down. I think that it would be a good companion read to Gravity's Rainbow by Pynchon.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Clif Hostetler

    This novel written in the voice of a fictional memoir tells the story of a boy/man growing up in the Free City of Danzig in the years between WWI & WWII and continues through the war years into the late 1940s. The story is narrated in a droll tone of realism but also contains impossible events and abilities. The combination is surreal. The main character who's narrating the story (written in a mental hospital, accused of murder) indicates he decided to stop growing after age three (and This novel written in the voice of a fictional memoir tells the story of a boy/man growing up in the Free City of Danzig in the years between WWI & WWII and continues through the war years into the late 1940s. The story is narrated in a droll tone of realism but also contains impossible events and abilities. The combination is surreal. The main character who's narrating the story (written in a mental hospital, accused of murder) indicates he decided to stop growing after age three (and indeed stopped growing), latter after the war decided to begin growing again, and meanwhile through all these events he has the ability to break and etch glass by screaming in a high pitched voice (and using that skill as part of a traveling troupe of dwarfs entertaining German troops). After the war he moves to West Germany, obsesses sexual thoughts about nurses, eventually becomes a rockstar solo drum performer who moves audiences to pee in their pants. At age of thirty he is released from the mental hospital after being exonerated of murder charges. The book ends with him fearing the Black Cook. In case the above summary of the book's narrative creates discombobulation of your mind, welcome to "The Tin Drum." It's an epic written with mythic components about a troubled time in history prone to be mis-remembered. This combination of bizarre happenings portrayed over the backdrop of Nazism and WWII begs to be interrupted symbolically. There is no allegorical interpretation to be consistently applied throughout the book. Nevertheless, I offer the following thoughts about various aspects of the story. Two Fathers The main character has two fathers, one Polish, the other German. He's not sure which one is the biological father, but the German is legally his father. This seem symbolic of the political situation of prewar Danzig, which was both/neither German and Polish. The Four Skirts Oskar's grandfather escaped responsibility for arson by hiding under his grandmother's four skirts while police were hot on his trail (they were unmarried strangers at the time). The four skirts symbolize sexual experiences as well as escape from responsibility. But why four? Escape From Responsibility He avoids execution which was experienced by his two fathers and the Duster Gang by his childlike size and appearance. His behavior was that of a betrayer. Tin Drum The red and white colors of his tin drum happen to be the national colors of Poland. The drum expresses his emotions and later as a way to arose emotions of others. The novel itself becomes a source of irritation to the reader that is played by a man-child as troubled and flawed as any of others in the story incapable of resisting Nazism and later unwilling to remember. Shattered Glass Is this an echo of Kristallnacht? Remote destruction of glass via high pitched voice must surely be a figment of life in an imaginary world, a world in which Oskar wishes to covey damage to the surrounding fragile political environment. Later it's a way to cause adults to behave like infants which perhaps is a form of remembering. Obsession and Premonitions The Black Cook, Luzie Rennwand's triangular fox face, and Nurse Sister Dorothea's finger in a jar of formaldehyde are vivid obsessions that drive Oskar to irrational behavior and fear of death. Goethe and Rasputin What's the deal with Goethe and Rasputin? Oskar frequently interprets events through a filter of Goethe and Rasputin. One interpretation is that Rasputin represents facism and Goethe represents culture which is a dichotomy experienced by prewar Germany. Jesus and Satan At various times Oskar claims to be Jesus, and during an attempted rape he is mistaken for Satan. This is confirmation in my mind that Oskar is delusional and living in an imaginary world. Needless to say, he's also an unreliable narrator but still capable of telling his story with great precision and detail. The combination is disorienting. Nuns on the Beach During a visit to Normandy Beach (on what ended up being the day before D-Day) a German soldier is ordered to shoot some Catholic nuns roaming the beach searching for prawns. Years later Oskar visits the same site with the same soldier, and they reminisce about that event. Neither time is there any expression of guilt or regret. Some nuns show up during the second visit as well which makes me wonder, are those nuns real? Were they actually ships sailing on the sea?

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    Funny I missed rating and reviewing this jewel. This is the lodestar, the mandrake root, the intrepid ooze making friends in the lukewarm pools of primeval poetry. This was the point of departure. A hallowed book I finished in a laundromat. I almost can't remember my reading life before wee Oskar. Eels, fizz, post offices, onions and Dusters have littered my imagination seemingly forever. I wanted to read the new translation and likely will someday. My memories of my own grandmother now smell Funny I missed rating and reviewing this jewel. This is the lodestar, the mandrake root, the intrepid ooze making friends in the lukewarm pools of primeval poetry. This was the point of departure. A hallowed book I finished in a laundromat. I almost can't remember my reading life before wee Oskar. Eels, fizz, post offices, onions and Dusters have littered my imagination seemingly forever. I wanted to read the new translation and likely will someday. My memories of my own grandmother now smell like butter.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Emil

    "What more shall I say: born under light bulbs, deliberately stopped growing at age of three, given drum, sang glass to pieces, smelled vanilla, coughed in churches, observed ants, decided to grow, buried drum, emigrated to the West, lost the East, learned stonecutter's trade, worked as model, started drumming again, visited concrete, made money, kept finger, gave finger away, fled laughing, rode up escalator, arrested, convicted, sent to mental hospital, soon to be acquitted, celebrating this "What more shall I say: born under light bulbs, deliberately stopped growing at age of three, given drum, sang glass to pieces, smelled vanilla, coughed in churches, observed ants, decided to grow, buried drum, emigrated to the West, lost the East, learned stonecutter's trade, worked as model, started drumming again, visited concrete, made money, kept finger, gave finger away, fled laughing, rode up escalator, arrested, convicted, sent to mental hospital, soon to be acquitted, celebrating this day my thirtieth birthday and still afraid of the Black Witch." Oskar is a little monster. He stopped growing, break glass with his voice and annoy people with his tin drum. But Oskar won a Nobel. For what? How can a midget who can barely talk win this prize? But he did it. For showing us this world from another perspective. Showing us WW2 - and war in general- from another perspective. He wasn't the English soldier who sees the horrors of war. He wasn't the German soldier who feels sorry for what he did. He wasn't the jew. He wasn't the journalist who show us the real face of war. No.He was looking at those stupid adults from down to up but in the same time from up to down. They believe in Santa Claus, Santa Gas, Jesus, Hitler and Virgin Mary. He believe in his drum, in Goethe, in Rasputin and in Maria. His Maria. He care about holocaust only when the toy store owner is killed. And he can't get drums anymore. He listen Nazi new conquests for learning geography. He's a little prick and he don't show sympathy for anyone. In his surreal story, nobody escapes from his bitter direct irony. Except his grandmother. You will hate him. And If you will hate him enough, maybe you will start to love him also.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    Exuberant, meandering, grotesque ... that are already three salient descriptions for this written down or maybe dictated life story of Oskar Matzerath, or rather Oskar Oskar Koljaiczek Bronski, or better yet, the 3-year-old boy that decides not to grow anymore and most of his life walks through the adult world with a tin drum. The setting: the city of Danzig in the period 1930-1945, swinging between Poland and Germany (that ambiguity is typical), and the postwar Düsseldorf. Oskar is not a Exuberant, meandering, grotesque ... that are already three salient descriptions for this written down or maybe dictated life story of Oskar Matzerath, or rather Oskar Oskar Koljaiczek Bronski, or better yet, the 3-year-old boy that decides not to grow anymore and most of his life walks through the adult world with a tin drum. The setting: the city of Danzig in the period 1930-1945, swinging between Poland and Germany (that ambiguity is typical), and the postwar Düsseldorf. Oskar is not a sympathetic figure, and the baroque writing style of Grass isn't really smooth, so that the reader has a tough time. But to counter that Grass offers an almost inexhaustible series of unlikely events, going from one strange and awkward situation to another. Rather than a reckoning with Nazism (though it is certainly ridiculed) the Tin Drum is a grim evocation of the human condition, of which all absurd, bizarre, cynical and sarcastic aspects are stressed. In this respect Grass is very related to the French writer Celine, I think. Despite the reading pleasure till the end you're stuck with the question where Grass exactly is heading with his gargantuan universe. Certainly in the third part he seems to have lost track. Yet it certainly remains an impressive reading experience.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Czarny Pies

    Gunter Grass is the only winner of the Nobel Prize able to speak Kaszub a weird Slavic language still spoken in the area of Danzig. Perhaps realizing that he spoke a language that belonged to the world of myth and magic but not to his own century, Grass decided to convert his experiences into a twentieth century fairy tale. The hero Little Oskar is a boy born in the Free City of Danzig, a state that was created by the 1919 Treaty of Paris and liquidated by the Germans in September 1939. Little Gunter Grass is the only winner of the Nobel Prize able to speak Kaszub a weird Slavic language still spoken in the area of Danzig. Perhaps realizing that he spoke a language that belonged to the world of myth and magic but not to his own century, Grass decided to convert his experiences into a twentieth century fairy tale. The hero Little Oskar is a boy born in the Free City of Danzig, a state that was created by the 1919 Treaty of Paris and liquidated by the Germans in September 1939. Little Oskar grows up in a German household with relatives in both the Kaszub and Polish camps. The Germans are shown as crass, vulgar and materialistic boobs while the Poles are portrayed as dim-witted yocals. The two groups live in reasonably good harmony both possessing a love of alcohol, smoked-eels and illicit sex. The German invasion drives the Poles out of the city. In turn the Russians arrive and expel the Germans all of which Grass presents in relatively jolly terms. The rape of his Little Oskar's grandmother by a group of Russian soldiers is described with levity and the extermination of 1,000,000 OstDeutsch that occurred in 1945 is never even mentioned in the novel. Grass prefers to give his reader the sunny version of history. His hero little Oskar however is traumatized. First he stops growing and remains dwarf sized into adult life. Once in Germany, he resumes his growth but cannot adjust to the new Federal Republic. He is confined to an asylum where he writes his memoirs for us to read. While the tale might seem weird it succeeds brilliantly in Grass's rendering. There is a constant flow of crude German humour and middle European bonhommie. Grass is above all good natured. The Poles claimed him as one of their own and their hearts were gladdened whenever he spoke Polish in public for which they cannot be blamed. Grass is a wonderful writer, richly deserving of his nobel prize. Read it when you want some light-hearted fun.

  21. 4 out of 5

    K.D. Absolutely

    I am not sure how to rate this book. I am not sure if I like it or hate it. It is just out of this world and Gunter Grass (Nobel Prize in Literature awardee) is just in his own league. The book is about a midget who refused to grow up. He decided to stop growing up at the age of 3 when he also started to beat his drum. His story as a child (Book 1) coincides with the pre-holocaust period in Poland. The scenes that struck me here the most are the 5-layer skirt of his grandmother where his I am not sure how to rate this book. I am not sure if I like it or hate it. It is just out of this world and Gunter Grass (Nobel Prize in Literature awardee) is just in his own league. The book is about a midget who refused to grow up. He decided to stop growing up at the age of 3 when he also started to beat his drum. His story as a child (Book 1) coincides with the pre-holocaust period in Poland. The scenes that struck me here the most are the 5-layer skirt of his grandmother where his grandfather hid before they got married and where Oskar (the midget) used to hide too and the death of the Oskar’s mother from eating eels. The image of the horse with the head of eels is said to have been the symbol for the Nazi period and it is the best image that marked the critics’ mind about this book. Book 2 happened during the holocaust when Oskar got the job in the traveling circus. Aside from playing drums his singing voice can also break glass. So, he became a famous carnival attraction. If in Book 1, he had his first love, Maria, in Book 2 he had his Roswitha. Maria ended up as the 2nd wife of his presumptive father while Roswitha was killed in the accident. Oskar survived the holocaust because he is not a jew. Also in this part of the book, Oskar became a father to Kurt without the child knowing. Unfortunately, the kid did not end up as a midget like Oskar. Book 3 is the post-holocaust period and Oskar became a nude model and later a jazz player. The little story that struck me here most is the story of Gerhard and Genrud what happened in the restaurant that Oskar partly owned. It is a sweet story of a young couple. Gerhard has no beard while Genrud (a lady) has wispy beard. They felt weird about themselves so it got into in the middle of their feelings for each other. Oskar’s ladylove in the part of the book is a nurse (he has a thing for nurses) Sister Dorothea. How do you then rate a book with this kind of impossible but one of a kind plot? It is not as likeable as the story of Buendia family spanning 6 generations in Gabriel Garcia Marquez masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude. It is not as political and definitely not futuristic as George Orwell’s 1984. It is not strike-to-the-core as the story of the Joad’s family in the poverty-stricken California in John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. It lacks the ethereal beauty of Antoine Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince. These are so far the four of the classic books that I really, really enjoyed. I spent 4 days reading this 500+ page book. Since page 1, I knew I would rate this 4 or 5 stars and that rating was sustained in every page of the book. But when I closed the book, I thought of giving this a star. The reason is that I am not sure if I like the impossible plot and the strange characters. I could not relate myself to any of the characters. I lacks that human touch. The nearest scene that could be heartwarming was the death of Oskar’s poor mom. However, she is sleeping with two men (the two presumptive fathers of Oskar) and their sexual encounters are explicitly described in the book. No wonder the German authorities banned this book for quite sometime before it got the interest of the rest of the world and finally led to Gunter Grass recognition as a literary talent. This is just one of its kind. This is probably what Jillian calls as an epiphany – a revelation of something good or in this case an introduction of a new – and a good one - taste. I am now looking forward to reading more Grass books.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Maureen

    The world portrayed in The Tin Drum is brutal and harsh, and, at the same time freakishly strange. There is an aspect to violence that disconnects from everyday reality. In this book, seen through the eyes of its diminutive hero, it becomes downright surreal. Though the tone may be fantastic, Grass does a better job of capturing life under Nazi rule than anything else I have ever read. Even in translation, his language is dazzling, and one thing is certain: after reading what happens at the end The world portrayed in The Tin Drum is brutal and harsh, and, at the same time freakishly strange. There is an aspect to violence that disconnects from everyday reality. In this book, seen through the eyes of its diminutive hero, it becomes downright surreal. Though the tone may be fantastic, Grass does a better job of capturing life under Nazi rule than anything else I have ever read. Even in translation, his language is dazzling, and one thing is certain: after reading what happens at the end of the dock, you will never, ever look at eels the same way again. I read this book many years ago, but I am still thinking about it. That is one of the hallmarks of a great book. Even though I am the Liz Taylor of book reviewers, (I fall in love with and feel I have to marry {give five stars to} every man {book} I meet {read}), this is the very rare book to which I would beg to give six stars.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Horace Derwent

    during the expidition of the subjugating war in ireland, one soldier of cromwell got possessed by demon. the chaplain had no other choice(actually, he was good for nothing) and threw him into a pond(used to be a method of exorcism), the soldier sank without a single note of sound...moments after, the demon went up to the surface and said to the priest:"you just killed that poor man, you scam artist." the pastor replied:"no, i did not. i saved him, he's with god now" then the demon roared in during the expidition of the subjugating war in ireland, one soldier of cromwell got possessed by demon. the chaplain had no other choice(actually, he was good for nothing) and threw him into a pond(used to be a method of exorcism), the soldier sank without a single note of sound...moments after, the demon went up to the surface and said to the priest:"you just killed that poor man, you scam artist." the pastor replied:"no, i did not. i saved him, he's with god now" then the demon roared in rage:"saved? you should get into the water then see whether he was saved!" the chaplain just turned and walked away, said:"i can't swim", indifferently i think it was a curse for oskar the drum boy years come and go i read it many years before when there was no abdominal fat and no specs as thick as the butt of a beer bottle for me but why do i always associate this book of story with the hills have eyes?? am i a nutty fuckwad?? in other words, i'd like to combine these two themes and the protagonist to be a nam veteran who'd live in a remote desert ranch or a lorn mountain village, then there we'll have a really weird and grotesque piece of freak

  24. 5 out of 5

    [P]

    When I was younger the only musical instrument we had in the house was an old acoustic guitar of my dad’s. Despite an interest in music, I was never particularly drawn to it, finding it a snivelling and cowardly instrument; an acoustic guitar, I thought to myself, cowers and sighs and feels sorry for itself, and that wasn’t at all what I wanted to express. No, I wanted to hammer something, to make a noise. Quite evidently, at that age, and in those circumstances, what best suited my feelings was When I was younger the only musical instrument we had in the house was an old acoustic guitar of my dad’s. Despite an interest in music, I was never particularly drawn to it, finding it a snivelling and cowardly instrument; an acoustic guitar, I thought to myself, cowers and sighs and feels sorry for itself, and that wasn’t at all what I wanted to express. No, I wanted to hammer something, to make a noise. Quite evidently, at that age, and in those circumstances, what best suited my feelings was the drums, on which I imagined I could pound out the rhythm of my frustration and fear. Yet we couldn’t afford anything so extravagant, so I abused the old guitar instead, until it was fit for no purpose other than kindling. Llittle Oskar Matzerath, the central character, and narrator, of Günter Wilhelm Grass’ renowned German novel, is, however, a little more fortunate. Upon his birth his mother promises him a drum by his third birthday, and, in accordance with that promise, one is duly given to him. As the title of the novel suggests, the instrument plays a pivotal role in the boy’s life and the work as a whole. Oskar quickly bonds with it, finding in it, much like I hoped I would, a way of expressing himself; indeed, it acts almost in place of speech as a means of communication, so that when he commences his tale on ‘virgin white paper’ he appears to be suggesting that the drum is telling it for him [something that is not unknown in certain African cultures, where the drum is used to communicate over long distances by mimicking patterns of speech], or that it at least allows him to tell it. “If I didn’t have my drum, which, when handled adroitly and patiently, remembers all the incidentals that I need to get the essential down on paper, and if I didn’t have the permission of the management [of the mental institution] to drum on it three or four hours a day, I’d be a poor bastard with nothing to say…” One must credit Grass, because Oskar’s drum is the most ingenious literary prop. Its versatility is astounding; it has so many functions in the text beyond being a child’s favourite toy. Most surprisingly, it acts as an accompaniment to the work, by which I mean that one cannot help but hear it throughout one’s reading, not only because the Oskar in the story is continually bashing it, but because we know that the Oskar in the asylum is also beating it while he narrates. So when the action speeds up one finds oneself assailed by a frantic pounding; in slower moments, the action is soundtracked with a soft patter. In this way, the drum not only mirrors Oskar’s moods, and the action of the novel, but your own moods and experience of the book as well, even though one cannot literally hear it! It’s a pretty extraordinary thing. One might also want to consider why Grass chose a drum, for there are numerous instruments that can express feelings and set tempo. It is, first of all, the oldest known instrument; and is considered to be the root of music, perhaps also the sound of nature. There is, then, something primordial about it, it, in a sense, harks back to man’s earliest, least sophisticated state. One must remember that Oskar for much of the novel is pretending to be a simpleton, and yet considers himself superior to everyone else. In this way, the drum symbolises how other people see him, but also symbolises how he sees them and the world. Furthermore, the drum is, of course, associated with the military, specifically with parades, marches, and rallies. While The Tin Drum is not solely focused on World War 2, for the book spans a larger historical period than that conflict, it certainly plays a significant role in the text. So it isn’t a stretch to suggest that Oskar’s pounding heralds, so to speak, and could be said to mimic, the army’s jackbooted marching. As one would perhaps expect of a novel at least partly concerned with World War 2, destruction is one of the major themes; indeed, it is in relation to this theme that one begins to understand the wider significance of this grotesque little drummer boy. His harsh, doomy-sounding and violent [to play it is, in most cases, to strike it] instrument of choice, his madness, as well as his ability to shatter glass with his voice, could be said to represent not only the collective insanity of the German people, but the literal destruction of Germany and the violence of Hitler’s ideology. Certainly, Oskar’s ‘singshattering’ foreshadows, and could even be said to be responsible for, Kristallnacht, which is invariably seen as the first co-ordinated step towards the Final Solution and the Holocaust. There are, furthermore, repeated references to fire. In the very beginning, we are introduced to Oskar’s grandmother; Anna; she comes to marry a man called Joseph Koljaiczek, who was once a kind of Polish revolutionary and, specifically, an arsonist. Moreover, Oskar’s drum is said to have a pattern of red and white flames; in this way, one could say the drum itself, not only Oskar with his voice, promises destruction. The pattern on the tin drum is also evidence of one of the book’s other preoccupations, which is Poland. Red and white is, of course, the colour of their flag. I must admit that I am no expert on Polish history and the country’s relations with Germany, but I do know a little about Danzig, where part of the novel is set. Danzig [or Gdańsk as it is now known] is a Polish city on the Baltic coast that was once ruled by Germany. More pertinently, Hitler used the issue of the status of the city as a pretext for attacking Poland. “I look for the land of the Poles that is lost to the Germans, for the moment at least. Nowadays the Germans have started searching for Poland with credits, Leicas, and compasses, with radar, divining rods, delegations, and moth-eaten provincial students’ associations in costume. Some carry Chopin in their hearts, others thoughts of revenge. Condemning the first four partitions of Poland, they are busily planning a fifth; in the meantime flying to Warsaw via Air France in order to deposit, with appropriate remorse, a wreath on the spot that was once the ghetto. One of these days they will go searching for Poland with rockets. I, meanwhile, conjure up Poland on my drum. And this is what I drum: Poland’s lost, but not forever, all’s lost, but not forever, Poland’s not lost forever.” The Tin Drum, I imagine it is clear by now, is a complex work, one that is on the surface a kind of bildungsroman, but which engages with numerous political, philosophical issues, and is full of motifs and symbolism and allusions. Some of this is relatively easy to get your head around and some of it is slightly more slippery. For example, there is a lot of duality in the novel that I’m not sure I can fully explain – the city of Danzig, which is both Polish and German; Oskar having two fathers, etc – except in relation to each other. One such, that of good and evil or Jesus and Satan, strikes me as particularly interesting. Of course, that a novel concerned with World War 2 would be exploring good and evil isn’t surprising, but it is maybe more eyebrow-raising that the narrator seems to come down on the side of the horned-one. For example, during his baptism Oskar is asked to renounce the Devil and he refuses. In fact, if I was to compare Oskar to any other literary character it would be the charismatic Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost. I don’t think this is a wild swing in the dark either. At one stage, Oskar takes to cutting holes in shop windows, not in order to steal himself but to try and tempt others into doing so. It strikes me as odd that in the few reviews or articles that I’ve come across online not one of them has used the term unreliable narrator; it is almost as though Oskar’s voice [or drum!] is so persuasive that readers take what he says on face value, regardless of how strange it is, preferring instead to label the book magical realist. That really doesn’t make much sense to me. Oskar, in the very first line of the novel, reveals that he is currently in an insane asylum, so one has to doubt, for example, his claim that he made a conscious decision to stop growing, or that his voice can shatter glass, and so on. Moreover, even if he wasn’t apparently mad, one would still call into question what Oskar says, because he makes it clear that he has one eye on creating an interesting and dramatic narrative; and he certainly gives the impression of withholding and manipulating information. He also, for what it’s worth, very obviously has a high opinion of himself, despite his short-comings [boom, boom], or rather because of them; that someone might compensate for any physical defects with a show of supreme self-confidence, or that they may lie in order to appear more exciting and more interesting, or even that they may want to turn these defects into magical gifts, does not seem completely unbelievable. None of this puts me in mind of magical realism, where the idea is that the genuinely magical exists side-by-side, so to speak, with the ordinary. Before wrapping this up, I want to mention Grass’ prose and, by extension, the translation. I have read The Tin Drum twice now; the first time was in Ralph Manheim’s translation, which I enjoyed and, not reading German myself, wouldn’t have criticised at all. However, I chose, in re-reading the book, to try Breon Mitchell’s newer version. Now, generally speaking I do not like modern translations. I think they are often egotistical, serving the translator, with their own odd quirks, more than the work itself, so that regardless of the work in question, or who authored it, one can always tell who translated it; I also think that modern translators very rarely have a great command of English, or even, in some cases, an adequate one [I’m looking at you Pevear & Volokhonsky]. Yet I was hugely impressed by Breon Mitchell’s rendering of The Tin Drum. It’s fresher, and funnier than Manheim’s; it’s more alive and poetic. I accept that it is possible that I simply do not remember Manheim’s translation in sufficient detail, but I can certainly recall my reaction it to. For example, I did not see anything of Joyce or Nabokov or Bely in it, but I did see echoes of all those writers in Mitchell’s version, which is playful and makes frequent use of alliteration, word play, and switches between third and first person narration, and so on. As a consequence of all this, his translation would be tougher to read, I’d imagine, but the rewards are far greater. In any case, although this review in nearly 2000 words long I know I have barely disturbed the surface of the work. Oskar’s affairs, his stint as a Jazz musician and model, the role of the circus, outsiderism, the onion bar where people go to cry, the HORSE’S HEAD AND THE EELS [don’t ask – I could barely keep anything down for a week after reading that passage]: all of these things, and more, could be explored in greater detail, but I fear you have perhaps only been skim-reading since about the third paragraph. But, if, out a sense of politeness, I have your full attention once again I would strongly urge you to read The Tin Drum, to put yourselves in Oskar’s dainty hands for a week or two. And if you have read it before? Read it again.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Inderjit Sanghera

    ‘The Tin Drum’ was one of the first proponents of what many readers dub “magic realism”, in which magical or fantastical happenings take place in a broadly realistic world. The term, however, is something of a misnomer; there is nothing more magical than reality, than the dazzling reflection of sunlight from a car window pane, than the myriad of colours which exist in a simple cloud, pink, white, blue or deep red. Reality, that most slippery of concepts, is often stranger than people think, ‘The Tin Drum’ was one of the first proponents of what many readers dub “magic realism”, in which magical or fantastical happenings take place in a broadly realistic world. The term, however, is something of a misnomer; there is nothing more magical than reality, than the dazzling reflection of sunlight from a car window pane, than the myriad of colours which exist in a simple cloud, pink, white, blue or deep red. Reality, that most slippery of concepts, is often stranger than people think, people who are conditioned to sleepwalk through life, unaware that the ground they walk on is hurtling through space at a thousand miles an hour. Literature, in its purest form, should explore and celebrate how magical life and the world are. ‘The Tin Drum’, at its very best, is able to achieve this, though its shortcomings, especially towards the end of the book, somewhat take the shine of its polished narrative style and wonderful away of characters. A boy is born with all his faculties intact. He decides, at the age of three to stop growing. He can shatter glass with his voice, insight delirious joy with his drum and inveigle a gang of young hoodlums to elect him as their Messiah. He carries about with him at all times a tin drum; let the socially and politically minded reader interpret the drum as a symbol of Nazism or fascism, for me the drum represents the wonder of Oskar’s existence, his drumming represents the different facets if his personality; the darkness of a man who conspired to (and succeeded in) murdering both his actual and his surrogate fathers and as naïve and innocent as a man who intentionally frames himself for a murder he did not commit just so that a friend can get his name in the newspaper. Grass is a wonderfully sensuous writer when it comes to describing his characters; just as Alfred Matzerath is able express his inner poetry via soup, so Grass is able to explore the essence of each character via their physical characteristics; “At first he saw nothing but two expressionless blue irises full of glints and reflections, everything in short that eyes are supposed to be full of, and then forced to admit that the reflections in my eyes were no better or worse than can be seen in any first class puddle, summoned up all his good will, concentrated his memory, and forced himself in his orbit to find my mama’s grey, but similarly shaped eyes which for quite a few years had reflected sentiments ranging from benevolence to passion for his benefit.” The coalescment of Oskar’s eyes from the deep blue, sensitive and artistic, of his (unrecognised) father, shining with the inner brightness of the oft lachrymose Jan Bronski, whose light was extinguished by a Nazi bullet, to the sad, somnolent grey of his mother’s eyes, reflecting the emptiness of a life which was dominated by her husband, Alfred, and lover, Jan and whose globular greyness was extinguished by an excess of fish, Grass’s characters reverberate with the strangeness of the world around them, from Markus the Jewish toy-store owner, to the divine tramp Leo Schugger or the Faustian Bebra, Grass’s wonderful array of characters stand in stark contrast to the rise of Nazism which takes place during the novel, of Nazism and its obsessions with uniforms and marches, creating a race of uniform people marching towards their collective doom, of Nazism with is desire to rid the world of art and individuality and which led to the death of Markus, who took all of the toys of the world with him when he died. ‘The Tin Drum’ celebrates these characters, but not in a sentimental or even “realistic” fashion, instead it looks at how their lives and fates had been hopelessly caught up within the relentless spin of the Nazi machine. The narrator, Oskar, is at his most poetic when he describes the various women he loves or fall in love with during the novel; from Roswitha with her cinnamony, Christmas smell to the wafts of vanilla which emanated from Maria, whose essence Oskar is never able to truly determine, one of the most poetic passages in the book is his initial description of Maria; “Was Maria beautiful? She had a round, freshly washed face and the look in her somewhat too prominent grey eyes with their short but abundant lashes and their dark, dense brows that joined over the nose, was cool but not cold. High cheekbones—when it was very cold, the skin over them grew taut and bluish and cracked painfully—gave the planes of which her face was constructed a reassuring balance which was scarcely disturbed by her diminutive but not unbeautiful or comical nose, which though small was very well shaped. Her forehead was small and round, marked very early by thoughtful vertical creases toward the middle. Rising from the temples, her brown, slightly curly hair, which still has the sheen of wet tree trunks, arched tightly over her little round head, which, like Mother Truczinski’s, showed little sign of an occiput. When Maria put on her white smock and took her place behind the counter in our store, she still wore braids behind her florid, healthy ears, the lobes of which unfortunately did not hang free but grew directly into the flesh of her lower jaws—there were no ugly creases, but still the effect was degenerate enough to admit of inferences about Maria’s character. Later on, Matzerath talked her into a permanent and her ears were hidden. Today, beneath tousled, fashionably short-cropped hair, Maria exhibits only the lobes of her ears; but she hides the flaw in her beauty beneath large clips that are not in very good taste” Grass is not one to sugar-coat or sentimentalize, this is partially the product of the unreliability of Oskar as a narrator; at times as unobservant as the inattentive (or perhaps perceptive?) artist who paint his blue eyes black, Oskar is constantly misinterpreting or obfuscating things, perhaps there is no “reliable narrator” and we all experience reality in our own individual and idiosyncratic ways and perhaps this is even more the case in the unusual Oskar, who is able to cram more life in his short frame than most people normal sized people ever will. Grass wonderfully recreates Danzig prior to and during the rise of Nazism, and therein lies the novels weakness. As soon as Oskar leaves Danzig, as soon as the original cast of characters die, or, like Fajngold, literally disappear out the novel, the novel loses a bit of its lustre, the narrative loses its spark and novel begins to drag, who third part of the novel, a few incidental characters aside, has little or no connection with the first two parts and the novel is a little disjointed as a result. That is not to take away from the brilliance of Grass’s writing, from the farcical scene involving the incendiarist Joseph Koljaiczek and the two police offers who are tailing him to the tragic destruction of the Polish Post Office, the novel is shot through with many wonderful and beautiful scenes and characters, and the character of Oskar, the who boy who stopped growing in order to avoid becoming a greengrocer, is in the most original characters in literature.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Drew

    Pop quiz: what's the name of that book with the physically deformed protagonist who's got paternity uncertainty and lives his own country's history? You know, he's got a superpower that sort of fades in and out as the book progresses, and, if I recall correctly, a relative who can cook feelings into soups. And he falls in with a group of weird kids with comical nicknames like Eyeslice and PuttPutt. No, it's not Midnight's Children. I'm talking about the one with the narrator who tells the whole Pop quiz: what's the name of that book with the physically deformed protagonist who's got paternity uncertainty and lives his own country's history? You know, he's got a superpower that sort of fades in and out as the book progresses, and, if I recall correctly, a relative who can cook feelings into soups. And he falls in with a group of weird kids with comical nicknames like Eyeslice and PuttPutt. No, it's not Midnight's Children. I'm talking about the one with the narrator who tells the whole story in retrospect from a point far in the future, and can only tell it through an object, and keeps switching from first person to third person narration when the story gets painful. You've read it; it's really long, well over 500 pages, huge cast of characters. Hell, the main character's birth doesn't even occur for 50 pages. Yes, I'm sure it's not Midnight's Children. Give up? It's The Tin Drum. Seriously, though. If I'd known beforehand how much Midnight's Children owed to Grass, I don't think I would have liked it nearly as much. It's like Rushdie read The Tin Drum and said to himself, I'd like to do this exact thing, but with India. And he did. It took me a long time to get into this; after 200 pages I was still thinking it was only okay. Impressive, yes. Prodigious, even. But enjoyable? Not as much. I think most of this is due to the fact that Europe itself is a total mystery to me. I mean, I've been there. I know things about it. But I don't understand it. Europe's history is one of occupation, and therefore of compromise. England was controlled originally by the Picts and Celts (and others, I think - my history knowledge is not great these days), and was invaded and taken over by Romans, then by Anglo-Saxons, then by the Danes, then by the Normans. To say nothing of their history of foreign kings. And England is on an island, so who can say how many ethnic groups have controlled, at one time or another, parts of central Europe? The US has never really been invaded, not in the traditional sense. We've never had to submit to any sort of foreign rule or law. Even when we were colonies, the UK more or less left us alone, except for those pesky taxes. So I'm constitutionally unable to quickly comprehend the sort of culture that has endured conquest. Not that I'm incapable of learning anything from books. For this one, it just took a while. But I suspect that's not the only thing that caused me to get more and more interested in The Tin Drum as it went on. I really think it just gets progressively better. Normally I have big problems with translations, since so much of the pleasure of reading, for me, comes from prose style. But Mitchell nails it. "Built up, chopped down, wiped out, hauled back, dismembered, remembered..." These are things you can do with memories. In the original German, those words were made-up, coinages. But Mitchell has found a way to make them make sense while still being aesthetically sound. What a guy. In Midnight's Children, Saleem tells his story through pickling, because for him, you can't preserve something without fundamentally changing it. In The Tin Drum, Oskar tells his story through a drum, because (apparently) you can't say something without shouting it. And therein lies my main problem with the book. I think Oskar's an irritating and despicable protagonist, and I'm not at all sure this is a common interpretation. He decides early in life never to grow up, because he doesn't want to be involved in the world of adults. This seems noble at first, to anyone who believes in the innocence of small children (but come on, who hasn't been shocked by the brazen attitude of kids who've just learned how to lie?), but we quickly find out that Oskar doesn't intend to give up the sex and violence of the adult world; he just wants to avoid the responsibility. That, and he's kind of a psychopath. Saying much more than that would necessitate spoilers, so I'll stop there. Oskar's quirks notwithstanding, this is underread and underrated. Here's a quote pulled almost at random to help convince you: "As attractive as the thought of a trip with the extremely slender, downy blond Ulla was, I still feared becoming too intimate with a Muse. You have to keep the Muses at a distance, I told myself, otherwise the Muse's kiss will start to taste like everyday fare. Better to travel with Lankes, who slaps his Muse when she tries to kiss him." (See?? I told you Oskar's despicable.)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    "Even bad books are books, and therefore holy.' But this is not a bad book. What a tightrope act it is! Sustaining the totally unreliable, possibly insane voice of Oskar through a book this long without stumbling or stretching our suspension of semi-belief is a hell of a task, and Grass totally nails it. I found this entertaining, funny, sad, weird and wholly likable. I do wish I hadn't read that part about catching eels while eating a sandwich. That shit was gross as hell. Anyone know where I can "Even bad books are books, and therefore holy.' But this is not a bad book. What a tightrope act it is! Sustaining the totally unreliable, possibly insane voice of Oskar through a book this long without stumbling or stretching our suspension of semi-belief is a hell of a task, and Grass totally nails it. I found this entertaining, funny, sad, weird and wholly likable. I do wish I hadn't read that part about catching eels while eating a sandwich. That shit was gross as hell. Anyone know where I can get my hands on some of this fizzpowder stuff?

  28. 5 out of 5

    Karl

    I learned that I don't find eccentric midgets that make highly stylized allusions to archaic information and literature very interesting, but that I do like it when eccentric midgets kill their fathers and have lots of sex. So ultimately this book taught me I am shallow; goodbye Harpers, hello National Enquirer.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Manisha

    Actual review: 4.5 “Granted: I am an inmate of a mental hospital; my keeper is watching me, he never lets me out of his sight; there's a peep-hole in the door, and my keeper's eye is the shade of brown that can never see through a blue-eyed type like me.” Did I enjoy this book? No, not at all. Not in the slightest. I did not enjoy this book at all. Could I put it down? No, not at all. Not in the slightest. I could not put this book down. This book was an amalgamation of an unreliable narrator, Actual review: 4.5 “Granted: I am an inmate of a mental hospital; my keeper is watching me, he never lets me out of his sight; there's a peep-hole in the door, and my keeper's eye is the shade of brown that can never see through a blue-eyed type like me.” Did I enjoy this book? No, not at all. Not in the slightest. I did not enjoy this book at all. Could I put it down? No, not at all. Not in the slightest. I could not put this book down. This book was an amalgamation of an unreliable narrator, fantastic situations, grotesque and inappropriate moments, while successfully giving a history of the rise and fall of the Nazis through sheer symbolism. It was painful to read. It was one horrible moment after another, and yet, I couldn’t look away, I had to know. This feeling was followed swiftly by wondering what truly happened? Did everything happen the way Oskar said it did? Or did a version of it happen and yet he chose to change the history? Or did none of it happen? Did he create the story? Did he want to be the hero in his own story? Did he want to be the child of the Polish cousin rather than the German husband? Did he want to justify why he stopped growing by saying that he chose not to be an adult? This novel is a contradiction for me. I didn’t enjoy reading it. I wasn’t a fan of the overly long prose and the questions that came with each page, and yet, I can’t help but understand its brilliance. It made me think. Personally, I wasn’t a fan of exactly where my thoughts went, but Grass prodded and pushed until I couldn’t avoid them. Excellently done, Sir. Excellently done.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    3.5 stars rounded up. I ran out of steam with this so I am giving it the benefit of the doubt by rounding up. There is a lot to think about in this and I don't think that I understood some of it (much of it?). It is too bad that this is a library book as it would be good to go back and reread or ponder certain passages again when a little time has passed. I really struggled with one fundamental feature of the novel -- Oskar's supposedly voluntary non-growth, allowing him to remain in a 3-year-old 3.5 stars rounded up. I ran out of steam with this so I am giving it the benefit of the doubt by rounding up. There is a lot to think about in this and I don't think that I understood some of it (much of it?). It is too bad that this is a library book as it would be good to go back and reread or ponder certain passages again when a little time has passed. I really struggled with one fundamental feature of the novel -- Oskar's supposedly voluntary non-growth, allowing him to remain in a 3-year-old body. I don't know what it is supposed to symbolize but its unreality bothered me throughout the book. I just couldn't suspend my disbelief and let it be... I was copying down passages that caught my eye before returning this to the library (I won't put them all here, so don't worry): in the chapter called ‘No Miracle’ “Sweet model gymnast, I called him, athlete of athletes, champion in cross-hanging from one-inch publican’s nails. And never a twitch out of him. The perpetual flame twitched, but he maintained perfect discipline and received the highest possible score for the even. The stopwatches ticked away. They timed him. Back in the sacristy somewhat grimy acolyte fingers were already polishing the gold medal that was his due. But Jesus didn’t compete in this sport for the honors he gained. Faith came to me. I knelt down, as best my knee would allow, beat out the sign of the cross on my drum, and tried to connect words like blessed or afflicted with Jesse Owens and Rudolf Harbig, with last year’s Olympics in Berlin – which wasn’t always successful, since I had to admit that Jesus had not played fair with the two thieves. So I disqualified him and turned my head to the left, where, arousing new hope, I saw the third sculpture of the heavenly gymnast in the Church of the Sacred Heart.”

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