Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Grass - III

In a Der Spiegel transcript of excerpts from his television interview of last week, German author Günter Grass talks about his recent confession that he was a member of the Waffen-SS. Although the interviewer, Ulrich Wickert, gives him plenty of room for self-justification, Grass's responses are far from reassuring, as the following snippet makes clear:
Wickert: You experienced a horrible situation in 1967, during a reading of "Örtlich betäubt" ("Local Anesthetic") at a church conference. A man walked onto the stage, said he wanted to be provocative, greeted his comrades from the SS, swallowed a cyanide capsule and died. What were you thinking at the time?

Grass: It was a shocking incident. When I visited the Scheub family a few weeks later and spoke with his widow and children, I learned more about this man, who was completely torn. On the one hand, he was still caught up in these Nazi ideas that had shaped him. But at the same time, he considered himself a pacifist as a result of his wartime experiences, and he helped his two older sons, who both wanted to be conscientious objectors, to write their statements. A strange man. A daughter of Scheub's has just published a book in which she quotes the passages I wrote about this incident in "Diary of a Snail," because the matter affected me deeply.

Wickert: Wouldn't it have been a relief for you to be able to write about your own, similar experiences?

Grass: It's difficult to say in retrospect. I didn't do it, and I'll just have to stand by that -- and I'll certainly be listening to these accusations for a long time to come. All I can say about the issue is that it's a topic in this book. I spent three years working on it, and I've written everything I have to say about it, and anything I say now, essentially after the fact, is only by way of explanation as it relates to the book.
(via Marius)

See also: Grass
Grass - II
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