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Crabwalkby Gunter Grass
"His novels have always been closely tied to actual events, but lately he seems not to be charting the political current so much as swimming along with the tide. This would be an unfortunate circumstance for any writer, but it is particularly so with regard to Grass, who is, more than any other contemporary writer, uniquely positioned to expose the falsity of the new debate over German victimhood....He, of all people, should have pointed out that the question of whether German suffering should be given priority in the understanding of World War II is fundamentally misguided. For it is a question he had already answered." Ruth Franklin, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)
Synopses & Reviews
Günter Grass has been wrestling with Germany's past for decades now, but no book since The Tin Drum has generated as much excitement as this engrossing account of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff. A German cruise ship turned refugee carrier, it was attacked by a Soviet submarine in January 1945. Some 9,000 people went down in the Baltic Sea, making it the deadliest maritime disaster of all time.
Born to an unwed mother on a lifeboat the night of the attack, Paul Pokriefke is a middle-aged journalist trying to piece together the tragic events. While his mother sees her whole existence in terms of that calamitous moment, Paul wishes their life could have been less touched by the past. For his teenage son, who dabbles in the dark, far-right corners of the Internet, the Gustloff embodies the denial of Germany's wartime suffering.
"Scuttling backward to move forward," Crabwalk is at once a captivating tale of a tragedy at sea and a fearless examination of the ways different generations of Germans now view their past.
Winner of the Nobel Prize
"Though the elliptical narration and multiple subplots intentionally impede dramatic momentum, this is one of Grass's most accessible novels, and the closing chapters...are simply riveting....A writer who refuses to avert his eyes from unpleasant truths, he remains an eloquent explorer of his country's troubled 20th-century history." Publishers Weekly
"[U]nsettling....Grass as lucid, sardonic, and unsparing as always." Kirkus Reviews
"With his stylishly unsentimental prose, Grass portrays a dysfunctional Germany, still split, unhealed, unable to come to terms with a past that — like the sunken ocean liner — contains both the innocent and the guilty....Crabwalk scuttles between past and present, building to a horrible conclusion — which is no less chilling for its inevitability..." Norah Labiner, Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Because the various characters exist only to drive the story, this work hovers in that realm between fact and fiction. Grass brings the horror of the event alive, and the narrator's (presumably Grass's) ruminations shine a revealing light on German society, east and west, since the war. Still, the incident would likely have had greater impact had Hitler not unleashed so many atrocities at the same time." Library Journal
"Günter Grass, witnessing from a glut of personal experience...holds true in Crabwalk to his narrator's dismay as he faces himself and the chaos, if not the 'toilet,' of our history." Joseph McElroy, The Washington Post Book World
No book since The Tin Drum has generated as much excitement as this engrossing account of the sinking of the German cruise ship turned refugee carrier Wilhelm Gustloff. This is at once a captivating tale of a tragedy at sea and a fearless examination of the ways different generations of Germans now view their past. Grass is a winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
About the Author
Born in Danzig, Germany, in 1927, Günter Grass is the widely acclaimed author of plays, essays, poems, and numerous novels. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999.
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