Roman and Mediaeval History, Illlustrated Travel Journals, Mediaeval Literature, Geology


13.8.05
  Günter Grass, Crabwalk

Crabwalk, Grass' latest novel is a remarkably short book compared to his other well known novels. But it gains by it, there are none of those drawn out and wordy passages which spoiled The Flounder and other books for me.

It is the story of a ship, the Wilhelm Gustloff (named after a Swiss Nazi assassinated by a Jew) which in January 1945 was torpedoed by a Russian submarine. More than 9000 refugees found their death in the icy waters of the Baltic Sea.

It is also the story of a land divided and reunited again. It is the story of three people, Tulla who gave birth to Paul on the only life boat that escaped the desaster, of Paul, and of Paul's son Konrad. Tulla lives in East Germany where she carves herself a niche in communism. Her world collapses with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Paul flees to West Germany when he is sixteen, but his attempts to found a family fail and he doesn't get along with his son Konrad. When the border opens again, Konrad finds emotional support with his grandmother who tells him her version of the Wilhelm Gustloff story, a story idealised by the distanced past. Konrad starts a website devoted to the ship and drifts more and more into the Neonazi world. Paul, upon his research about the subject, comes across the site and chatroom of his son, first without knowing who he is.

The Wilhelm Gustloff links and divides three generations and stands as symbol for the problems Germany still has with its past.

Crabwalk is a multi-layered, fast paced book that shows the dangers of denying history, the loss of identity, and the temptation of extreme political movements (Konrad likens himself with the historical person of Wilhelm Gustloff to establish a new identity). Contrary to his other novels, Grass here never preaches, he just tells a story and makes the reader think. For non-German readers, it proves a good lesson in the History of WW2 and the problems of the 90ies.
 
Comments:
Sounds interesting. I recall enjoying The Flounder (although I never finished it -- I got Grass fatigue!) I liked the recipes ;o)
 
Doug, that one is only some 240 pages, not your average Grass doorstopper. :)
 
Crabwalk, you mean? Cuz I seem to remember Flounder was BIG. Maybe not Tin Drum trilogy big, but still good-sized ;o)
 
Sure, I meant Crabwalk. The Flunder is big, so are The Rat, and Ein weites Feld (don't know if that has been translated).
 
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Miscellaneous musings of an aspiring Historical Fiction and Fantasy author. Illustrated essays on Roman, Dark Age and Mediaeval history, Mediaeval literature, and Geology. Some poetry translations and writing stuff. And lots of photos of old castles, cathedrals, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes from Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and the Baltic States.

All texts (except comments by guests) and photos (if no other copyright is noted) on this blog are copyright of Gabriele Campbell.

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I'm a writer of Historical Fiction and Fantasy living in Germany. I got a MA in Literature, Scandinavian Studies, Linguistics and History, I'm interested in Archaeology and everything Roman and Mediaeval, an avid reader, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, and photographer.


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