During the Second World War, Grass volunteered for the submarine corps at the age of 15 but was rejected; two years later, in 1944, he was instead drafted into the Waffen-SS. Taken prisoner by American forces as he was recovering from shrapnel wounds, he spent the final weeks of the war in an American POW camp. After the war, Grass resolved to become an artist and moved with his first wife to Paris, where he began to write the novel that would make him famous.
Full of the bravado of youth, the rubble of postwar Germany, the thrill of wild love affairs, and the exhilaration of Paris in the early 50s, Peeling the Onion, which caused great controversy when it was published in Germany, reveals Grass at his most intimate.
©2007 Gunter Grass; (P)2007 Tantor Media Inc.
"Grass has written a memoir of rare literary beauty . . . Peeling the Onion, like Grass’s best novels, is filled with striking poetic imagery." (Ian Buruma, The New Yorker)
"Peeling the Onion is wakeful, twitchy, suspicious, shambling, and yet also—if we are still permitted to use this word as a compliment—sincere." (John Leonard, Harper's Magazine)
"This memoir is easily Grass' most visceral, eloquent book since The Tin Drum." (The Seattle Times)
These memoirs of Gunter Grass's early years are literary in at least two senses. FIrst, they are presented in a very literary manner. Grass employs lots of rhetorical tricks and fireworks, such as alternating the first and third persons to refer himself, slipping back and forward in time, long and complex sentences,and so on. This sometimes makes for a hard listen and may not be to everyone's taste. Some of the most effective parts of the book are those where he slips into a simpler narrative style and lets the events speak for themselves.
Second, these are memoirs of a literary man, and they contain a lot of allusions and references (sometimes identified, sometimes not) to works of Grass and other german writers. At one point, he refers to a trip to Italy as a journey to the 'land where the lemons blume.' This is a reference to a famous poem by Goethe, which would be very familiar to most German readers but less so to Americans. If you are not fairly familiar with some of Grass's work (at least The Tin Drum) and German literature generally, you will frequently feel (correctly) that you are missing a little something.
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