This book had been my suggestion because we always look for novels by authors from different countries. We haven't read many German books, so I thought, let's read a Grass. This author has never been an "easy" person, born in Danzig to Polish-German parents, raised Catholic, moved to West Germany as a young guy, he is strongly left-wing and will say what he thinks needs saying. He is a journalist and a sculptor/graphic artist.
A lot of our members found the book very hard to read. Why do translations of books into English always have to be so bad? We've made this experience again and again. Mind you, in this case, I can't really blame the translator too much, a lot of the conversations, especially by the narrator's mother, are in Pomeranian and even difficult to read in the original German version.
We had various members who started a couple of times until they finally finished it. Some of their remarks: I appreciate that he wrote it. This book caused a big stir in Germany when it came out I understand German shame factor. I realized how oppressive and burdensome it is for children to have to live with parents' ambitions. Paul Pokriefke wanted to be a normal person, his mother Tulla wrote him off completely and transferred all her ambitions to her grandson. Germans shouldn't dwell on their past. A lot of people don't want them to forget, the hatred is still there. They show it on TV, remind you every year. "Victimization gives them power." I appreciated the father's love for his son, he stands by him. You need not stand up against this great machine. What is going on at the moment? We talked about the Neo-Nazism in several European countries. The truth is, all European countries had and have Nazis.
Even though this was probably one of the toughest reads for most, it was a great foundation for a very interesting discussion. It leads to so many different topics. I don't think anyone should be surprised to know that the author was awarded the Nobel Prize.
Oh, and someone remarked they were astonished by the fast that there were six times as many deaths on the Wilhelm Gustloff as there were on the Titanic, yet you never hear about it.
We discussed this in our book club in August 2012.
From the back cover:
"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."
Günter Grass "whose frolicsome black fables portray the forgotten face of history" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999.
I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.