My Century Overview
1900: What does he mean, “I,trading places with myself”? And so on… Why does the Kaiser say take no prisoners? Why does he mention culture? Why does the Narrator bring home a pigtail — and everyone laugh? What do YOU think of all that? 1902: Although this is no Book of Laughter and Forgetting, there’s a fair amount of symbolism in the book. What do make of the hats/helmets dichotomy? 1905-06: The Kaiser again — why? The war machine again — why? 1912: Why does he write poetry about the end of the world? What you make of the first two paragraphs of the story? Be specific, please. 1914: All Quiet on the Western Front, the most famous novel about World War I, was written by a German, Erich Maria Remarque, who becomes a character here. How does the discussion of it here comment on Grass’ take on Germany — and its tilt toward the military? Why do you think Grass, a writer, includes Remarque, a writer? 1915: More war, bomb fragments, caps and helmets. What do you makes of this? 1916-17: Gas, bayonets, trenches — politics? Where is Grass going with all this? And why so graphic? 1923: Read this one carefully! Who is talking — and why? How do you get the feeling for daily German life during the worst inflation in world history. (Look up articles on this: it’s unbelievable.) 1927: Describe this culture — cripples on the corner and couples in the cabarets! What kind of picture is Grass painting of Germany? 1931: Talk about the Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, and his magnetism. Does this account for what happened? Is it real? 1932: “Something had to happen.” A lot of meaning in a few simple words. Is it true — that something HAD to happen? Did that something HAVE to be Nazism? 1933: Hitler takes power, something we see off-stage here. If you were the Narrator of this story, would you be afraid? Why? Why not? 1934: Read a brief history of Ernst Rohm. It’s an amazing story. No need to post, just read it. Fabulous insight into that culture. 1938: The Germans and minorities — Jews, Turks, and others. Why does Grass seemingly lump them all together even though they are greatly separated by time and ethnicity? What ethical lessons can you draw? 1941: War on top of war on top of war. Why does Grass stack them up this way? Is it fair? 1943: As with Ernst Rohm, read a brief history of the Warsaw Ghetto. Worth seeing the various documentaries on the Warsaw Ghetto and the film The Pianist. Astonishing stuff. 1945: Why does he end the section, “For us war never ends.”? PART 2 1950 — Why is the Carnival important to them? 1951 — Nothing speaks more loudly about the German post-war economic miracle than Volkswagens. How does he frame it for his novel? 1955 — People all over the world dug backyard shelters from nuclear attacks. How does Grass handle it? What do you think he thinks of such bombs? Such shelters. 1959 — Take 20 minutes, look up Grass on Wikipedia, his world-wide phenomenon The Tin Drum, arguably the most important German novel since 1930. He includes it here because it was his, and because it was indeed a publishing sensation. What do you think of the coverage of his own work. (By the way, a good version of this in on DVD in Carnegie Library. The movie’s worth your time.) 1961 — With Germany divided into two countries, people had to work endlessly to get people out of the East, which, like Czechoslovakia in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, had closed its borders to the West. For those of you who’ve had trouble with this book, check out the Berlin Wall on Wikipedia. Then take a look at how well Grass essentially writes the entire story of how it affected everyday people. How would you feel dealing with all this? 1962 — Look up Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi war criminal, who was tried for war crimes in a glass booth. Why do you think Grass chooses to tell his story through this particular Israeli narrator? 1968 — Worth a note that he notes Prague full of Soviet tanks. Everyone in the world saw that. It was THE story that year. 1970 — How do the Germans expiate their guilt? His description of the Chancellor at the Warsaw Ghetto is wonderfully descriptive. How effective do you think the Chancellor was? Was it real or simply a piece of theater? 1976 — Being spied on by your own government. A taste of The Book of Laughter and Forgetting in East Berlin. Once again, the film The Lives of Others should be at the top of your list to see TODAY! 1977 — He refers to the Baader-Meinhof Gang. Worth seeing the German film on same. Fabulous movie on terror and terrorists. 1991 — After looks at protests against nuclear power, and other contemporary ills, he turns to the TV, to the first Gulf War. What is this doing here? Hitler and Saddam Hussein? What do you think? 1993 — Germany and her so-called guest workers: minorities who are more or less denied entry into the mainstream. Is Germany, with its rejection of everything non-German, coming full circle? Is that what he’s saying? If not, what? 1999 — Does he really end the book? If so, how? If not, why not?