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It's time for the readers oh man to act with one by our originally broadcast over station WNYC in New York and distributed by national educational radio. The reader's almanac is America's oldest consecutive book program. Here now is Mr. Bauer. Three years ago there came out in this country a translation of the novel published first in Germany in 1989 called the 10 drum. Its author was going through a grass born in Dantzic in one thousand twenty seven one who thus had been a youth during World War Two and an adult in the post Hitler Germany. This work Mr. Grass his first novel was promptly recognized as a major piece of literature won attention and prizes not only in Germany but in other European countries as well. One American critic said of it that him it immediately entered the mainstream of the European literature when it was published in America. This success was repeated. It was a bestseller for three months and was appreciatively read as a highly original
wildly imaginative satire of the world's viciousness and stupidity. This book was followed by a much slighter volume more conventional in form perhaps but with much the same satirical purpose. A novel called cat and mouse. In our third work by Mr Grosse has just been published in a New York long challenging or somewhat difficult novel called dog years. It is a savage handling of the grotesqueries of the German people before during and after the Nazi period their selfishness and stupidity. It has been done a great and brilliant effectiveness. It is a free soaring and fantastic imagination that is in this book. It will certainly be widely read and argued about as perhaps belonging to the literature of the absurd. At least that is a plausible way to speak of the novel and to suggest its quality. Now with a general recognition of Mr. Gosset position in the world literature is so well established. His publishers Harcourt Brace and world are brought Mr. Grosse to New York for us to get to know him better
and to encourage Americans to buy more copies of dog years. Of course since this will bring more readers into touch with one of the most talented of commentators upon what man has done with his world who has most richly and vigorously written out of his scorn at the appalling mess that man has made it seems a wholly good idea to me. It's especially worth doing I think to remind Americans American readers that great writing may be a work of Prendes lation from another language than English. I think our readers tend to forget that for many reasons in Mr. Grosse we are very glad to have you here. Did it require much persuasion to have you assent to make such a trip. No I don't sense that because one year ago I was first time here was my wife and we travelled around and felt like a little bit like a tourist and this time back in the city I don't feel like a tourist I'm here was my drop you see here is
working sometimes hard and sometimes that's hard. And now I see a possibility to all come again next year for four months in New York. It's they was my wife. I read something in the paper that you might be up at Columbia. Yes I was that girl. Yes I am and that is. I'm sure first appear only here in this section. European Institute as economist university and what I want to do is is I have some lectures and a seminar with students historian students and get my mystical language students. Well I certainly congratulate Columbia University and getting your services. I wish we had thought of that. I hope so but you see I am I didn't I didn't finish my school and I was OK. I hope to learn something.
Now since we're talking in the first week or 10 days or so of your visit I should like to take off from the most considerable event of that time at least for you and and that must have been the actual publication of your new book Dog years. Not all the verdicts are Yadi and of course since many of our most influential magazines are monthly or quarterly publications but maybe you have seen some of them have you any comments to make on the treatment that you've been getting. Oh I think that's the most of them I saw in the last two days but I'm sure when I go back to denominate. I want to have a nice hour some hours with a cup of coffee or something and then I will lay down and read perhaps a critic of Mr Prescott my fun and to be teached by him. I think that's the best way to handle the whole business. Yes I do I would like to ask you if you do read reviews consistently back in Germany let us say. If so what do they tell you.
Usually anything of any merit is I get all the sinks by my edition and I read all of them. But this is only one part of the critic that's coming to me is one and I think what's important part is as a voice of the readers coming by that that's Or I'm some contact with them I meet somebody and they're telling me. About a book about the time they read this book. And that's quite another voice you see. The critics at doing this professionally. Yes. More or less well done and really does show me what is going on was a book after it's finished and theirs and theirs are like it's going on individually. They have it as a voice of the readers are more different then
the voice of the critics because they have this has to have their professional John gone and assert saying we haven't Gemini's this group 47 that's a group of writers found written once a year 47 and we do one z and the writers are reading from manuscript not from books. And after we have critic less direct and very hot critics and all of this series things together I think a writer needs is he needs a resonance. And if he is not superficial if he can stand it it can help him.
I think I know the answer let me ask you this question I suppose that you do write for readers and not for critics. Or do you attempt really to write for them both or think of them both that you are. I think first I write for myself because I'm I try to write about things I don't know rason this minute I'm a way to make myself sure about this or they're saying there's this problem or not only problem about the picture or about a story what's going on with them about persons and persons in the landscape. The first read of my book and from time to time I'm saying if it's not boring me after the vocal for years perhaps for dog years there's a chance that other people will not be bought or sold. I think you recorded somewhere in a paper that I read saying that you discover what you believe as you write it out is that proper quotation is
as you see from me from the egg. If you're speaking about believing there are two columns I need and I am believing that one is fantasy. And. Then I don't know if that's a real English word for we say in German for new month. Reason I think now. Yes there's both things fantasy and the reason and sound not so so far away from it from the ASM. I need to write a book of the things and believing in you. I would like to make use of some of the things that I have read at any rate and their views over here some of the reviewers have made some comments or probably guesses or assumptions about literary influences which I played upon you. I would like to mention that what they have said and and then and then ask you if they have
guessed rightly or whether these authors have been literary influence upon you or not. I suppose the author that most often mentioned when these matters come up would seem to be Joyce James Joyce at least that I have seen and thereafter they mention Kafka and mon Thomas mon and particularly Felix Kroll. Here any or all of these writers do any of these writers influence you Joyce but particularly Kafka. I can know Kafka. That's not my thing at all. Yes I know but Joyce bias but the general kind of Joyce. By doubling the number that's being wrote this wonderful book that you know next on the plots. Yes it's came out just same times in Manhattan TransFair and might've just passed us and but was influenced by Joyce.
But Joyce was influenced by stern and Stern was entranced by Rob relate and that's a long wonderful line. Yes there was a need for the direction of cued up and I think an important book for me was the one on one side and the German tradition from them it's how I was in the beginning it was as modern books are book of expressionism disbelief Oleksandr plots and as I said Melitta Moby Dick. And all saw when I was a 23 24 years old I was influenced by and still is the greatest American poet but I wanted to be a man. And you cannot. There's no possibility to be when you're with men because the situations the political situation isn't there. It's a pity for the United States
and because I was saying you need a new wardrobe a demand here but what you can learn is one of the men his briefs. He has and I just thought some days ago I was on an island and it was some friends to visit and we traveled around to Montauk Point. And they were very astonished I had a book of world with my in my pocket and I read the poem before to Whitman. You know it's him. I would hardly occurred to an American to do that I'm awfully glad that you did it our very lives. Let's talk a little bit more about this matter of style and I suppose it can be defined or rather simply as a distinctive way of writing. It comes from of course from the conception of a story in the devices that the author uses to accomplish a purpose. I wonder if for you these are
consciously arrived at work over perhaps thought about even after a model which is what most influence seekers usually assume is done well it was style for you again in some measure inherent in your mind and extension perhaps of one's personality. Which is it for you is it you work at it consciously or do you with is this simply the way that your mind works. This is it's for me it's different from Baroque to can I can say that. If a book is finished I have to begin you know I don't like and I don't see a reason to write Zarian. And just now I am speaking about the gears but I'm mostly more interested on the last play I have written because this is not yet
finished and I'm still thinking about it and dug years is finished for me in this form it's finished but it's coming back one day I don't know one another form. Also some of these persons and I have other professions. I guess I want to ask you long after stories and now I just after seven years I started was Sky touring again and the only profession I really have learnt as to be a stone mason haha I worked at two years on Cemetery. I'm glad to have this profession because if I want money as a way or how I don't know what is away by this as a professional who never has a crisis you see people always need gravestones. You mean it might be called a rather more solid and secure than writing.
I should be interested to know Mr. Grass how you did begin to write what you first published and perhaps something like where it appeared. I ask this because it occurs to me that no individuals may be able to follow a native writer and one in one's own country from the appearance of a striking short story and perhaps obscure but well-regarded magazine. But authors from other countries come to us with very nearly full blown reputations as you did with The Tin Drum. Even if that was your first novel but surely that was not your first publication. No my first publication was a book of poems and drawings. It came out in Germany in the year 56. It's a tie to the forts you could have into you know. And I started was writing seriously just after the war I worked one year and
a man and he had no front. And this time I was 18 years old and I started again was some drawings and was we had time there because electric power was interrupt for I was just after the war and he said that was what I wanted. That's mine I was and I was this cast I was seeing and see as dad was writing. But from this time from the thoughts from 47 to 46 47 56 is 10 years. I wrote a lot of poems in there so I was in a way kind of as I once I tried this and I tried this I had my eyes I told them I wanted to it meant you know you know doing my tracker tell you old and my put in there pull you out and I'm very glad that I published my first book.
Late because I was a sculpture and this time I wasn't on school board and I didn't take care of what's going on with my poems I put some something in a corner and then once my wife told me this as the radio off to God is asking for poems to give a price or something and so I got the prize fever just for fun. He sent some poems in and that was that. Yes for us that's certain encouragement. Tell me something more about the plays that you read and where does they come in in the time order of your work are they experiments are are they central to your writing career. I began also was place and this time I mostly worked as a sculpture and was healing to Diane Oakes them on the locus and I was interested to write down the sinks and so slow slow why I started it was was plays and one act
and the most plays I have written before is tender. And there's a plate. Now I have finished with the first after the no votes and I think this place is quite different than other places I have written before is the first place. In a way. Fantastic and poet Dick absorbed in a way coming from this German tradition of Beechnut. And now with experience I have often over I thought I was away. It's also a political sea at them. I'm trying again we have just this in Germany. Yes and now we also we have a situation to do it as sings because our society is just a beast. Then these plays will get produced and heard and have an effect upon them as it means early place. Well yes yeah played from time to time and study is more for a for a
for smart smart audience but this play I have written will come out in December and out of the show let's see it then. And I look forward to what's going on there. I wonder if you feel that you are saying something different to your German readers from what you're saying to English readers or French or Italian or whatever. I would assume that you are in fact as well as intention. But I would like to have your answer to such a question at least the message to Germans would be more pointed to them then to us wouldn't it. Yes. I think that the political the sayings in the books are more not only as a political sings a more touching directly in Germany and I was wondering the first time what people are perhaps living and she kind of go on to try to like to know about things are happening in this house I've done sickened to
Kushal by the by. I'm also interested what is happening and for us not what's in this house. And Sopra Vince becomes more and more interest for people on the boat because the distances are so short now and it's very easy to hear something what's happening he ends in the same minute. And so I was interested of facts coming from the provinces small things as moving 6 coming from a growing up. Well the intelligent man is interested in whatever is going on anywhere in the world I would hope at any rate that that would be true and thus your novels will have a very large import for Americans as well as for Germans but probably more for Germans I would think. Now if you have a message and I don't say that you do have but lest
I'll use that word. Is your message especially to German youth. I mean have you given up the possibility of reaching those who lived through the Hitler years have their guilt feelings immobilized them from appreciating the lessons that they should have learned. I don't know as I'm already asked you the first thing I told you I'm writing for myself. And from that I can say I am always writing and speaking was my game that told my get of Asian was my gain aeration. The skin aeration That's because in Germany the generations are stronger than the other places. We had to much point interrupt this slow going on and just going to FSA speaking was my gain aeration I mean this. Young man now between certainty and so between 30 30 sorry and 38.
So where soldiers are just beginning to be soldiers in the last years of the war and say no was a time or just after the war they grow up during the war and in the beginning of this peace time we still have you know what is it that you are saying to the German youth I know for one thing that you are saying to them that political action is is necessary. What else have you attempted to say to them through your books or players. No what I don't I don't speak about the field guilty or something else because most of them now are born after other war crimes. But what I mean is to learn to live with this past time we have not to be blind to see. To do both was to look for their own possibilities. But also to look back from time to time.
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The reader's almanac
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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