THE CALL OF THE TOAD by GÅnter Grass

THE CALL OF THE TOAD

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 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.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-15-125743-4
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1992