Günter Grass is a familiar name for those who have an interest in the arts as he is Germany’s oldest living writer. But he is not only a writer who won the Nobel Prize in 1999 in Literature – he is also a novelist, playwright, sculptor, poet and graphic artist.
His first novel was The Tin Drum, penned in 1959 and formed the first part of the Danzig Trilogy that included Cat and Mouse and Dog Years. Almost 20 years later, the book was adapted into a film that won many awards including the Palme D’Or and the Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film. The trilogy was set against the Nazi culture that existed at that time and the rich historical background that was also part of Germany. His other books include Letters on the Border, Local Anaesthetic, The Meeting at Telgte, The Flounder and Catwalk. He also wrote many short stories, poems and other works, often reflecting his political sensibilities. His poems were compiled in books like Die Vorzüge der Windhühner, Gleisdreieck, Ausgefrag and Letzte Tänze among others. In 2012, his controversial poem, What Must Be Said, about the nuclear crisis in the Middle East caused him to be banned in Israel because of his stand on the nuclear weapons issue.
As with all artists, Günter Grass’s works have been influenced by his life. Born in Poland in 1927, he went to Germany in 1945 as a refugee. Before that he was part of the Waffen-SS in Poland and took part in combat operations. He was sent to an American prisoner of war camp after being captured in Marienbad. It was then that he went to Germany.
He supports the Social Democratic Party of Germany and has always been in favour of Democratic reforms and critical of the Left Wing. In fact political activism has been his hallmark and is evident in all the work that he does. His latest book, From Germany to Germany, is a compilation of his diary writings from 1989 after the Berlin Wall fell till elections in the unified country.