Grass, Günter "My Century" (Mein Jahrhundert) - 1999
Günter Grass is not really one of my favourite authors, not one of my favourite German authors or one of my favourite Nobel Prize authors. However, he is growing on me and has shown why he really deserved the Nobel Prize with this work. One hundred years in one hundred stories, told from different perspectives, from the rich and the poor, the left and the right, those that left and those that stayed. Men, women, children, everyone got the chance to tell their story that is so particular for that part of the century. If you want to understand what Germans went through and achieved in that time, this is a good point to start.
This is not the BIG book about the century, the book that tells us all how things happened, no, these are more little glimpses through the keyhole into the living rooms and into the hearts of all those Germans that lived in the 20th century.
I am not a huge fan of short stories, either. But this is so much more than just a collection of short stories. Many of them sounded familiar to me, either because I myself have lived or seen them, after all, I have seen almost half of that century, or because I have been told them by my parents and grandparents (some of them were even born in the century before). You cannot possibly agree with every single story because they are too different, they show a broad overview over every aspect of life, every political party, every personal viewpoint.
Certainly, there are stories that might need more explanation to someone who knows nothing about German history (besides that they started THE war) but I still believe that this book teaches us something, at least wets the appetite to know more about certain parts of the history.
Some stories are also personal, they are almost like a mini-biography of the author. If you know nothing about him, that might be hard to understand, just see it as part of the trial to bring one country's century into one book. Not an easy task but Günter Grass managed it quite well.
I read the German original of this book.
From the back cover: "In a work of great originality, Germany's most eminent writer examines the victories and terrors of the twentieth century, a period of astounding change for mankind. Great events and seemingly trivial occurrences, technical developments and scientific achievements, war and disasters, and new beginnings, all unfold to display our century in its glory and grimness. A rich and lively display of Grass's extraordinary imagination, the 100 interlinked stories in this volume-one for each year from 1900 to 1999-present a historical and social portrait for the millennium, a tale of our times in all its grandeur and all its horror."
Günter Grass "whose frolicsome black fables portray the forgotten face of history" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999.