Kirkus Reviews QR Code


Diary 1990

translated by Günter Grass ; by Krishna Winston

Pub Date: Nov. 13th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-547-36460-5
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

A momentous year for Germany and the author, as detailed in a journal published more than two decades after the fact.

In 1990, nine years before he would win the Nobel Prize for literature, Grass (The Box: Tales from the Darkroom, 2010, etc.) experienced a year of such turmoil that he thought it might be worth documenting in a daily journal, even though, he writes at the outset, “I am not one of those people who love keeping a journal. Something unusual must be happening to inflict this ritual on me.” The fall of the Berlin Wall and the rush toward German unification, about which the author’s attitude ranged from profound ambivalence to outright resistance, provided the spur, as the political and economic climate in his homeland would tempt Grass to renounce his German citizenship and cause critics to disparage him as “the nation’s pessimist” or even a traitor. Though he shows no reluctance to “challenge the politicians’ pieties and spit in the unity soup,” even Grass wonders whether he is “merely a captive of the past, a dinosaur.” The author is not usually prone to intimate confession, but he provides a daily account of a year that saw Germany win the World Cup, his extended family experience a birth, a wedding and a death, and the author ponder various conceptual permutations of what would become his next novel, The Call of the Toad. Some of the most entertaining passages are those that seem out of character—e.g., “Poked my head into the minibar, which contained three bottles, nothing else. I thought I was pouring a glass of mineral water and found myself downing vodka, and a minute ago, instead of my cigarillo, I stuck half a pretzel stick in my mouth and sucked and sucked on it.”

Very much the work of a writer conscious of his role as a political man of letters. Much of what he finds interesting may not interest readers two decades after the fact.