Günter Grass, German poet, novelist, playwright, sculptor, and printmaker.
With his extraordinary first novel die Blechtrommel (1959, The Tin Drum) became the literary spokesman for the German generation that grew up in the Nazi era. Grass received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999. The author has described himself as "Spätaufklärer", a belated apostle of enlightenment in an era that has grown tired of reason. He has once said, that writers, by giving us "mouth-to-ear artificial respiration," help keep humanity alive.
"You can begin a story in the middle and create confusion by striking out boldly, backward and forward. You can be modern, put aside all mention of time and distance and, when the whole thing is done, proclaim, or let someone else proclaim, that you have finally, at the last moment, solved the space-time problem. Or you can declare at the very start that it's impossible to write a novel nowadays, but then, behind your own back so to speak, give birth to a whopper, a novel to end all novels. I have also been told, that it makes a good impression, an impression of modesty so to speak, if you begin by saying that a novel can't have a hero any more because there are no more individualists, because individuality is a thing of the past, because man--each man and all men together--is alone in his loneliness and no one is entitled to individual loneliness, and all men lumped together make up a 'lonely mass' without names and without heroes. All this may be true. But as far as I and Bruno my keeper are concerned, I beg leave to say that we are both heroes, very different heroes, he on his side of the peephole, and I on my side; and even when he opens the door, the two of us, with all our friendship and loneliness, are still far from being a nameless, heroless mass." (from The Tin Drum)
Günter Grass was born in Gdansk, Poland (formerly Danzig, Germany), the scene of his several novels. His father owned a grocery and his mother was of Kashubian origin--Slavic people distinct from the Poles both as to language and culture. Grass was educated at Danzig Volksschule and Gymnasium. In the 1930s he joined the Hitler Youth, was drafted into the army at the age of 16, and wounded in a battle in 1945. In the same year he was imprisoned in Marienbad, Czechoslovakia. Freed in 1946, Grass supported himself by working on farms, in a potash mine, and as a stonemason's apprentice.
As an essayist Grass has been prolific, dealing with several topics often embedded in historical context. However, for an outsider his mockeries of what he sees to be the faults of Germany and German people, is many times hard to understand. In 1989-91 Grass opposed German's hasty reunification. In 1992 he dedicated a public address about the decline of political culture in the United Germany to the Turkish victims of Mölln. In his later essays Grass has criticized contemporary culture and politics.