Crabwalk

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9780151007646: Crabwalk

Gunter Grass has been wrestling with Germany's past for decades now. In this new novel Grass examines a subject that has long been taboo - the suffering of Germans during World War II. Crabwalk tells the story of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a former cruiseship turned refugee carrier, by a Soviet submarine in January 1945. Some 9,000 people, most of them women and children fleeing from the advancing Red Army, went down in the Baltic Sea, making it the deadliest maritime disaster of all time. Grass's narrator is one of the few survivors, a middle-aged journalist who lives in Berlin. Born to an unwed mother on a lifeboat the night of the attack, Paul Pokriefke tries to piece together the tragic events. While his mother Tulla sees her whole existence in terms of that calamitous moment, Paul wishes their life could have been more normal, less touched by the past. For his teenage son Konrad, who dabbles in the dark, far-right corner of the internet, the Gustloff embodies the denial of Germany's wartime agony. Scuttling backward to move forward, Crabwalk is at once a reckoning with an untold chapter of European history and a reflection on the ways different generations of Germans now view their past. This is Grass's most provocative and engrossing work in years.

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Review:

With Crabwalk, a book that has enjoyed tremendous success in Germany, GŁnter Grass proves yet again that he is one of the most formidable figures in modern European literature, and anyone who believes that the glory days of The Tin Drum are behind him will find this remarkable novel quite as ambitious and penetrating as its great predecessor (even if, at 234 pages, it's considerably more concise than his earlier masterpiece). Political engagement has always been the force that motivates Grass's books, and the legacy of the past as it affects the present remains the fulcrum of all his work. Needless to say, like all great writers, his work is universal; you do not need to be German to appreciate such books as The Flounder and this new novel.

Here Grass tackles a subject that still causes unease among his countrymen: the problems of the German nation during World War Two. The central incident of the book is the sinking in 1945 (by a Soviet submarine) of the Willem Gustloff, a ship that had been converted into a refugee carrier. The loss of life in this sinking was immense, and this incident in the Baltic Sea remains the worst of all maritime disasters. The narrative is carried by Paul, a survivor of the sinking, who is now a journalist living in Berlin; his mother, Tulla, gave birth to him in a lifeboat on the doomed ship. As Paul attempts to place the disaster in the context of life in Germany today, his mother finds herself unable to shake off the crushing resonance of the incident. The generational theme is carried further by Paul's young son Konrad, who has been seduced by far-right elements in Germany which are attempting to rewrite history.

This is Grass at his considerable best: a powerful, significant theme is handled trenchantly, while the multi-generational problems of his characters are balanced against a lucid picture of the society in which they live. And despite the seriousness of his subject, Grass remains immensely readable. His books may be shorter these days, but their impact is no less forceful for that. --Barry Forshaw

Review:

'Crabwalk is a sharp, punchy and profound novel about pain and truth, both public and private.' -- Eileen Battersby, Irish Times, March 22, 2003

'For Grass, Germany's relationship with its history is an incurable disease. He provides a mastery and poignant diagnosis.' -- Peter Millar, The Times, April 5, 2003

'Grass does deliver a denoument providing a wholly unexpected twist to this sombre and memorable novel.' -- Andrew Crumey, Scotland on Sunday

'This book is full of telling human detail and neatly plotted with a sure sense of shock.' -- William Tanner, Hampstead and Highgate Express, April 4, 2003

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Gunter Grass
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Book Description Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York,Toronto, London, 2003. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. First U.S Edition. "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". Bookseller Inventory # 002023

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