THE MEETING AT TELGTE
Grass has lately become enamored of present/past historical parallels, sometimes with splendidly epic results. But this time the notion is a trifle, a very specialized one: an imaginary convocation of German poets in 1647, at the end of the Thirty Years War, called together by the Konigsburg poet Simon Dach in order to reach some ecumenical consensus on the repurification and revitalization of German prosody and language. Housed at the last moment in a country inn run by Courage, the bawd-heroine of H. J. C. von Grimmelshausen's Simplicissimus, the poets read their work aloud to one another--and to an unexpected drop-in: Heinrich Schutz, the great German polyphonist, who's come by scouting for texts for madrigals. They argue, chivvy, banquet, preen, and honestly worry whether there will still be a Germany after the war is done. And in an indispensable afterword, Leonard Foster explains that Grass here is paralleling a group of modern German writers with a similar goal: Group 47, which, led by Hans Werner Richter, met regularly from 1947 to 1967, with Grass as a participant. This fictional filet, therefore, is more by way of testimonial booklet than a full, free-standing creation. Those especially keen on 17th-century post-Opitz German literature will enjoy the dabs of literary portraiture; otherwise, the intrinsic interest is very slim--and only Grass' eminence can explain this literary curiosity's mainstream publication here.