"Whose frolicsome black fables
portray the forgotten face of history"
Grass, recently awarded the 1999 Nobel Prize for Literature, is a distinguished
German novelist, lyricist, artist, and playwright. Writing from his experience
in the Luftwaffe and as a prisoner of war, Grass deplores fascist militarism.
The anguish of war and the social and political problems that West Germany faced before reunification are the principal concerns in his novels. Die Blechtrommel (1959; tr. The Tin Drum, 1961), which brought him world renown, reveals his bizarre sense of humor.
His second novel, Hundejahre (1963; tr. Dog Years, 1965), is a monumental work that aroused considerable controversy.
Grass's early poems and plays are marked by a sensitivity for imagery and a tendency toward symbolism and ambiguity (see Selected Poems, tr. 1966; New Poems, tr. 1968; Four Plays, tr. 1967). His later works reflect a period of intense political activism. Student unrest in Berlin and the political generation gap are the themes of his novel Ortlich betaubt (1969; tr. Local Anaesthetic, 1970) and a play adaptation, Davor (1970; tr. Max, 1972).
Grass's reflections on his life in Berlin and his political activities are the basis for the novel Aus dem Tagebuch einer Schnecke (1972, tr. From the Diary of a Snail, 1973).
His other works include a collection of speeches and open letters entitled Speak Out! (tr. 1969), and the novel Inmary praise (tr. 1974).