CAT AND MOUSE by Gunter Grass


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Gunter Grass' second novel is quite different in character from The Tin Drum. less of a showcase for an obstreperous talent (although there are still scenes of caricature and occasional scabrous humor), it is a more controlled book and far more internalized. This time the German-realist-surrealist, while again using many symbolic allusions, has subdued some of the abstractions, some of the elements of the absurd. The latter is chiefly apparent in the physical disfigurement of the central character which again singularizes him: the demonic Oskar Matzerath was a warf; now it is the protuberant Adam's apple which jumps conspicuously like a mouse the neck of Mahlke whose story is told by his friend Pilenz. Both boys grow up together in a small Danzig town and the always solicitous, increasingly admiring Pilenz follows Mahlke, in a sense an unlikely hero, odd, quiet, solemn, devout, as e performs his amazing feats. These extend from the childish games, when- as an underwater diver- he brings up trophies from a sunken minesweeper in the bay, to the atrocities of war and his spectacular performance in action. Little by little, however, there is the erosion of the individual by the system and Mahlke, the "mouse", the "clown", but most of all the "redeemer" with his resounding faith, goes deliberately to his death. It is the gesture of the individual against the philistinism which has always dominated German life and which was so much a part of the earlier book.... A tantalizing, eloquent, strange and strangely moving book, filled with remarkable scenes, a tragi-comic vitality and a transcendental vision.
Pub Date: June 15th, 1963
ISBN: 0156155516
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace & World
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1963


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