Books by GÅnter Grass

Released: Oct. 1, 1992

An aging German art-historian, Alexander Reschke, meets a Polish woman, Alexandra Piatkowska, a fine-arts re-gilder, at an outdoor flower-stall in Gdask, Poland (once Danzig). Widower and widow finds themselves talking, then together visiting a local cemetery—where the tragedy of the displaced German Danzigers (like Reschke) and the battered Poles who bore Hitler's fury seems crystallized. Over a home-cooked meal of sautÇed mushrooms and wine, the old pair come up with an idea—a cemetery of reconciliation where native Danzigers, Polish and German, could find final rest. The idea also leads to a romantic affiliation of these two oldsters—but it's downhill from there, as the idea becomes one under which third-party German commercial imperialism recapitulates Nazi land-grabbing, a greed that post-Soviet, impoverished Poles are helpless to counteract. What a pain in the butt Grass must be to the Germans! Though the sour little fantasy here goes on too long—losing sight of the charmingly seedy lovers (and of a delicious Bengali entrepreneur who sweeps through the continent selling rickshaws to Europe's traffic-paralyzed cities) in favor of bureaucratic complication- -Grass's naysaying verve is infectious. His metaphors—the cemetery, the gold leaf, the rickshaw—are as light as air but trenchant. Spun like a jazz solo, the book seems a lot more casual than you later realize it is—which is one of its choicest pleasures. Read full book review >