tin drums: marching to a different beat

…Nobel laureate Günter Grass is expected to be released from a Hamburg hospital within days, after undergoing what his secretary called a routine test.

Grass was admitted on Monday, less than two weeks after his poem criticising Israel triggered a storm of criticism. In “What Must Be Said”, Mr Grass labelled Israel a threat to an “already fragile world peace” over its stance regarding Iran. Israel has barred him.Read More:http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/news/gnter-grass-in-hospital-7654748.html

…The Grass debacle has prompted Marieluise Beck, a Green Party deputy in the Bundestag, to quote the Israeli psychoanalyst Zvi Rex’s quip that “The Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz.”…

---Many people have pointed out the strange alchemy that seems to transform bad books into great films. The Godfather being the most obvious example of that. But to make a good book into a good film is fearsomely difficult. The one instance the Likeithateit team agree to having been as satisfied with the film as the book is the monumental, Gunter Grass novel The Tin Drum.--- Read More:http://likeithateit.net/?p=1167

Loathsome and brilliant, murderous and funny,incoherent and compelling, eloquent and obscene, implausible and alive, such is The Tin Drum. Published in Germany in 1959, it was the first novel of Gunter Grass. It shows the coarse and cruel side of Germany with a rare gusto. Although it can bring on alternate fits of admiration and repulsion, it does not leave one indifferent.

The plot is impossible. Its hero is impossible. Its telling is impossible. Still, we believe a nightmare while we dream it. It is the life story of a freak, a hunchbacked dwarf, names Oskar Matzerath. Born in 1924, he is thirty years old when he begins, lying in a mental hospital, to look back over his career and write his autobiography. He is not unhappy, for the authorities allow him to beat his drum several hours a day; he is reasonably comfortable, for he is rich and has friends to visit him and bring him presents; and he has plenty of time.

Two years earlier he was arrested for murder: although he had not committed the crime, he supplied a witness who gave evidence against him, too to flight, was arrested, and although seemingly guilty, was declared insane. When Interpol picked him up in Paris, he said, not for the first time, “I am Jesus.” The case may be re-opened and Oskar cleared; but he is still insane and shrinks from the prospect of being released into a world where he will have to start his ministry and gather disciples.

---Fassbinder, Garbage, The City and Death. Read More:http://www.no99.ee/eng/lavastused.php?nid=50

The tale of his life is insensate and horrible. His growth was arrested at the age of three by a fall down the cellar stairs. In his insanity, Oskar boasts that he deliberately dived down headfirst, to avoid growing up and becoming a grocer like his father; at first you almost believe him. Thereupon he became a drummer and a screamer. For hours every day he beat his drum. And when they took it away from hm he screamed. And his screams smashed glasses, broke windows, intimidated all who tried to control him.

Not that he was an imbecile. He learned to write and to read: his favorite literature was Goethe’s Elective Affinities and a book on Rasptin’s sexual adventures. He grew in cleverness if not in stature and grace. True, the other children played tricks on him, such as making him drink frog and urine soup; and his mother died after a surfeit of eels and sardine oil; but Oskar survived. He even mnaged to beget a son on a girl bedfellow, whom he stimulated by giving her fizz powder mixed with his own spittle.

No, he did not remain a child at heart; but he kept the childish advantages of insignificant smallness and apparent innocence. So,

n he broke up the Nazi rallies by playing his diabolical drum and throwing the demonstrators out of step, he was too tiny to be found. When the Free City of Danzig became the earliest battlefield of WWII, he was actually in the Polish Post Office at the moment that the Germans stormed it; all its defenders shot but Oskar, looking babyish and cute, was let go.

---The Knesset's Labor and Welfare Committee approved on Monday a bill sponsored by MKs David Rotem and Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beitenu) that cuts by half the National Insurance benefits to terrorists who are citizens of Israel. Terrorists who served at least ten years in jail will lose half of the benefits for unemployment, disability, old age, work accidents and more.---Read More:http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/155282#.T558rsXT3PQ image:http://www.collive.com/show_news.rtx?id=8553&alias=tefillin-at-march-of-the-living

When the war grew intense, he became a stunt performer traveling with a troupe of midget clowns and entertaining the German armed forces. When the Russians entered Danzig, he contrived to get them to shoot his father, and then escaped to the West on a refuge train floored with vomit and feces. At this point, Oskar grew a few inches taller and produced a doubtless symbolic hump.

After the war, he still managed to exist, as a black marketeer, a tombstone cutter, an artist’s model, a jazz musician, and finally a virtuoso drummer. But his midget friend Bebra died; the nurse Sister Dorothea, whom he had loved, was murdered. He was lonely; he had nothing left but Sister Dorothea’s severed finger; he feigned a confession of guilt, and so his career, with a sharp bump of anticlimax, ended.


So do Grass’ views reflect mainstream German thought, or don’t they?

Grass’s principal parliamentary support came the German Left party deputy Wolfgang Gehrcke, who serves as the party’s foreign policy spokesman.

He said Grass has the “courage” to say what is silenced. In the past Gehrcke has participated in pro- Hamas and pro-Hezbollah rallies and has compared Israel to Nazi Germany.

Unsurprisingly, the Left Party has struggled over the years to recognize Israel’s right to exist. While the anti-fascist Left party spokesman celebrated Grass, the extreme right-wing fascist party—the National Democrats (NDP)—also praised the author. Günter Grass has earned credit for his “liberating break of a taboo” by criticizing the “aggressive Jewish state,” wrote the NPD Saxony state politician Jürgen Gansel.

I think we can safely say that after 70 years, the Germans still don’t know how to respond to the Holocaust and do so with a mixture of continued anti-Semitism on the one hand, and shame on the other. Perhaps this sums it up best:

German debates over anti-Semitism after the Holocaust have traditionally been anchored in guilt and shame, and in that department, Grass is no anomaly. The German writer and director Rainer Werner Fassbinder neatly captured this phenomenon in his 1975 play “Garbage: The City and Death,” in which the character Hans von Gluck bemoans, “And it’s the Jew’s fault, because he makes us feel guilty because he exists. If he’d stayed where he came from, or if they had gassed him, I would sleep better.”

Which may help to explain Grass’ peculiar obsession with Israel. Henryk M. Broder, a best-selling German author and critic of Grass, argues that the debate has transformed Germany’s Nazi-era slogan “The Jews Are Our Misfortune”’ into “Israel Is Our Misfortune.” Read More:http://israelmatzav.blogspot.ca/2012/04/which-germans-support-gunter-grass.html

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One Response to tin drums: marching to a different beat

  1. Boring says:

    complete load of rubbish, the usual attempts to make everyone look like an antisemite – one can only wonder why when we know that, as Fanon said, those who hate the Jew hate the Black and……? More exaggerated response to Grass, who echoes the sentiments of many Germans and internationals and it has nothing to do with antisemitism, but to do with the horror many feel about Israeli government policies, which sadly parallel some government policies in Germany in the 1930s. As for Henryk M. Broder, he’s off the wall and does Israelis and Jews internationally more harm than good. Only in a land bowed with guilt would anyone listen to him, but some day soon no one will take him seriously.

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