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The Rat


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Gunter Grass was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 199

About the Author

G NTER GRASS (1927-2015), Germany's most celebrated contemporary writer, attained worldwide renown with the publication of his novel The Tin Drum in 1959. A man of remarkable versatility, Grass was a poet, playwright, social critic, graphic artist, and novelist. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1999.


And the rats shall inherit the earth, or so Grass concludes in this wonderful work of speculative virtuosity. With no less a subject before him than the ultimate fate of humankind, this superb German writer weaves together stories to produce an imaginative whole. As the oracular She-rat tells of humanity's demise and the rat's ultimate dominion, Grass himself fights back with memories and dreams, seeking to establish a better future through the acts of history and mind. Meanwhile, a barge crewed by women plies the Baltic Sea. And Oscar Matzerath, the drummer of Grass's early novel The Tin Drum, now appears as a 60-year-old film producer with a plan to film the natural world before it dies in chemical offal. Wildly entertaining as well as thought provoking. Paul E. Hutchison, English Dept., Pennsylvania State Univ., University Park

The marvelous flounder, resurrected from the novel of that name, appears in Grass's new novel, his first large work of fiction since the talking fish swam into view, accompanied here by singing jellyfish. The tin drummer, now a balding man of 60 hampered by a bothersome prostate, also returns. A melange of fable, history, polemic, diatribe and jeremiad, its prose interspersed with verse, The Rat is a teeming sea of story and saga that defies brief description and amply displays Grass's fecund imagination. The She-rat is a Christmas gift requested by the narrator, and she is a mixed blessing, devoting herself mostly to denouncing the human race and its legacy of garbage, radioactive trash, toxic chemicals. Contemptuously ridiculing humankind's pretensions, she informs the narrator that she and her kind are ``sick'' of the stories by which man seeks to sustain himself, ``to put off the end with words,'' and the quarrel between them takes on the weight and seriousness of moral judgment, just as Grass's gifts of fantasy and his strong, skeptical intelligence vie for dominance in his fiction. Manheim's heroic translation lucidly conveys Grass's linguistic idiosyncrasies, bizzare neologisms and madcap eccentricities. (June 27)

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