Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Grass, Günter

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(1927-2015) Danzig-born German sculptor, poet, dramatist and writer, very much better known for his activities as a novelist than for his work in other fields, most of which preceded the publication of Die Blechtrommel (1959; trans Ralph Manheim as The Tin Drum 1962 US), the novel which made him famous. Through the eyes of one Oskar Matzerath – who has decided as a very small child to respond to the cruelties of German history by refusing to grow – the novel traverses much of the 20th century in terms so surrealistic and intense that fantasy and Reality seem to fuse in its pages; Oskar communicates solely through the eponymous drum, which makes a tocsin sound throughout the depicted world. GG's second full-length novel, Hundejahre (1963; trans Ralph Manheim as Dog Years 1965 US), covers the same period, concentrating on the sculptor Amsel, who makes first scarecrows then Automata in the shape of SS-men; and also focusing on several generations of dogs who, like Oskar, turn their backs on the vileness of history. Later novels – like Der Butt (1977; trans Ralph Manheim as The Flounder 1978 US) and Die Rattin (1986; trans Ralph Manheim as The Rat 1987 US) – continue to scarify history through epic narratives in which humans and animals interchange roles, in a deliberately grotesque hypertrophication of the Beast Fable. The Flounder is narrated by a logorrhoeic fish; The Rat, narrated from space after a dream-like Apocalypse by a she-rat, is almost incoherently misanthropic. GG's fury at the human condition, and at the institutions (the Church, the military, the state, etc.) which worsen our lot, is not always controlled; but it is never his intention to construct a fantasy story whose resolution will seem redemptive. Grass received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1999. [JC]

Günter Wilhelm Grass


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.