The poetry of Günter Grass

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I hereby declare that the thesis whicfi fallows is all my own work and that all source materials

haue been duly acknowledged. To the best of my abili.ty I have adhered to the principles of true scholarship.

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THE POETRY OF GLINTER GRASS

P r e s e n t e d f o r t h e d e g r e e o f [blaster o f A r t s

by 3ohn D . H o l g a t e

J a n u a r y '1973

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T A B L E O F C O N T E N T S

I N T R O D U C T I O N P p . 1 - 3

Chapter G R A S S A N D T H E C R I T I C S Pp.4-18

Chapter 2 , T H E L Y R I C A L W O R L D O F GIJNTER G R A S S Pp» 19-74

Chapter 3. T H E W R I T E R A N D H I S S O C I E T Y Pp.75-108

Chapter 4. P O E T R Y A N D P O L I T I C S Pp.109-126

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p.2 Until fairly rccsntly literary critics have not giuan the

lyrical writings of Gurrcer Grass a groat deal of attentitDn. One reason for this nay lie in the foot that Grass's poems arc outside the main stream or -jevelopments in reoent German literature. The success of Grass's ncuols may also have led to his collections of verse being largely overlooked by serious academic criticism. Certainly there has been a te^ndency among interpreters to treat the lyrics of Gunter Grass as part and parcel of his total output seen as the expression of an essentially epic uiorId-view« There have been a number of very fine interpetations of individual poems which have served to reveal the nature of Grass's thought and also show him to be a consummate artist in words. The most interesting attempts along these lines have been Friedrich Kienecker's discussion of Im Ei** and Kurt Brautigam's

2 3 examination of the narrativfe poem Freitaq, Klaus Wagenbach has looked

at Grass's linguistic technique but he is fundamentally concerned witii the novelist and-the lyrical writings are only mentioned in passing.

The chief aim of my work is therefore to offer a number of

interpretations of Grass's poems (or 'close readings') and at the same time provide an introduction to the mind and imagination of the writer. In Chapter 1 (Grass and the Critics) I have examined the reception which the lyricist Grass has been accorded sc far by the critics - both

journalistic and ecsdemic. Chapter 2 (The Lyrical World of Gunter Grass) goes into the biographical circumstances which surround the poems and outlines the central themes of Grass's poetry and at the same time documents the author's experience of fear, death and impotence« In the third chapter (Tho Uriter and his Society) I have endeavoured to aiialys-e a number of poems which show Grass as a stern moralist and a keen social critic determined to confront his readers with their own shortcomings and hypocrisies. The final chapter (Poetry and Politics) traces the writer's progressii'e commitment to political life in the Bundesrepublik and examines this 'engagement * as it is reflected in the poetry of Gunter Grass.'''

1, Kienscker^F. Per riensch in der modernen Lyrik,, Fine Mandroichung zur Interpretation. Christliche Strukturen in der modernsn UeltoHrsg. Wilhelm Ploger. Ludgerus. Essen.1970. Pp.97-105

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p. 3 3. liiagenbach, K. Gi'int^r Hrass. In i NonnGninann, K., (Hrsq. )SchrirtstG."[ Isr der Geqsniijart-.. Qgutsche l.iteratur. 53 f^ortrats. Walter Dlt'in und Freiburg.Pp.118-126,

4, In order to simplify the recording of references to individual poems in the course of this work I haue chosen to abbreviate the titles of each of the three volumes of verse Grass has published so far. After the initial reference (which I have recorded in full) there appear abbreviated titles which take the fcllokiing form:

VW, (Die Vorzune der Ulindhuhnar. Luchterhand.Weuuied und Berlin,1955)

Gd. (Gleisdreieck. Luchterhand.Meuwied und Berlin.'I 950)

Ag, (Ausqefraqt. Luchterhand,Neuwied und Berlin. 1966)

Tne title of the recent edition of Grass's collected poems has also been abbreviated:

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'f'Ut erschreckendem Schnurrbart, raubtierhafter

Beherrschtheit und kaschubischem ^air' las Grass Gedichte. Sie sturmten uber die Gruppe hin, uiirkten lahnnend und

befrsiend zugleich. Lob und Tadel in der Kritik:das Ungeuiohnliche war begriffen uiorden.'

The first of Gunter Grass's lyrical works to be published was a 2

poem entitled Lilien aus Schlaf which won for the author the third prize ti

in a poetry competition sponsored by the 'Suddeutscher Rundfunk*.

II 3 The poem did appear in Walter Hollerer's publication Akzente but

was scarcely noticed by the critics inside or outside Germany.

Die Uorzuqe der bJindhuhner^, a book that contained sketches as well as poems, was published by Luchterhand in 1956 and was favourably received by Helmut Uhlig^who spoke in the 'Sender Freies Berlin' of the humour and fine irony which characterize Grass's lyrics. In the course of his review which he delivered on the second of August 1956 Uhlig drew

attention to Grass's work as a sculptor and contrasted the author of the bJindhuhner with the nineteenth century humorist bJilhelm Busch:

Nicht daj3 Grass eina neue Uariante zu Wilhelm Busch-den er ubrigens sehr liebt-oder zu dessen Nachfahren bietet. Sein

Humor ist viel sprBder. Er kommt nicht aus der Situationskomik, sondern aus der verstcckten Bildkomikj Damit ist er dem

surrealistischen Uitz verwandt. Er vermag Dinge zusammen zu bringen im Bild wie im Gedicht, die einzeln genommen,

n

Klischees aus dem Kleinburgermilieu und dem Naobisdermeier sind, aber in der Kombination den Reiz reiperischer Montage mit der Unmittelbarkeit des Anschaulictien uerbinden.^

Uhlig recognizes the fundamental melancholy out of which many of Grass's poems grow and the inescapable sadness of such pieces as Lamento bei

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Glatteis when he comments:

1. Kaiser,3. Das Schonste.. Fiunchen.December. 1 962 . Quoted in

Die Gruppe 4 7 Ein Handbuch.Hrsg.Reinhard Lettan^Luchterhand, Neuwie'd und Berlin. 1 96?. P. 1 81 .

2, Grass,G. Lilien aus Schii&f. Gunter Grass. Gesammelte Gedichte. (Hrsg.M.Uormw:i:ii-. Luchterhand. Meuwied und Berlin,1971, Pp. 47-48,,

4, Grass,G. Die \iorzuqe der iJindhuhnsr. Luchterhand,Neuwied und Berlin, 1956. 5, Uhlig,H. Sender Frsies nerlin. August 2.1956. Reprinted inrl.nschutz,

G.l/on Hucn zu Buch, uuntcr Grass in der Kritik. Luchterhand. Neuwied und Berlin 1956.Pp.164-165.

6. Uhlig,H. IniLoschutz, G.Op . Cit.P.164.

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liJer in diesen Wersen nur das auf den ersten Blick ins Auge fallende Bizarre, das Abstruse, die scheinbara

Zusaminenhangslosigkeit gewahrtj u,lrd dsn Hintersinn Grass'scher Lyrik, die humoristische, oft absr auch tragikomische Totale

8 dieses Weltaspekts kaum erkennan.

The East German poet Dohannes Bobrowski remarks that Grass is a 'talent'-9

'eine Begabung., .auf die man achten soil'. Houever Bobrowski's rev/iew is not without a degree of critical reserve:

Grass setzt seine Bilder recht hart ein. Freilich scheint mir das einstujeilen doch weniger auf Kcnzentration zu deuten, als auf eine vorhandene, kunstgeujerbliche IMeigung,-ein Spiel, dem sich die Sprache nicht sshr gefugig zeigt."

The acclamation of the "Gruppe '47" was immediate. At the twenty-first meeting which touk place in late October 1959 at SchloB Elmau bei flittenwald G(jnter Grass read his poems before an appreciative audience of fellow writers:

Nur zu Beginn vermeinte man im lautlosen Auditorium eine ri

gewisse Spannung zu spuren, ob Grass auch in der Lyrik die hohe, unmittslbare Stillage der,, Blechtrorrimel" erreicht habe. Nach den wenigen Probsn besteht kein Zweifel daruber, dap II diese Gedichte, teilweise die Thematik des Romans beruhrend, die gleiche einfache, unlackierte Sprache besitzsn,inhaltlich gekoppelt mit einer auperordentlichen Kraft der BildassoziatLcn und einer Begabung fur Aspekts des schwarzen Humors, die auch die einnehmende Person des Autors kennzeichnet. Dazu war wenig, um dies nur unisono zu sagen. Die Redeutung, die Grass innerhalb der jungsten deutschen Literatur hat oder haben wird, ist kaum zu uberschatzen.

Thus reported Klaus Uagenbach in December 1959 in 'Frankfurter Hefte'«

8.Uhlig,H. IncLoschutz,G.Op.Cit.P.165

9.Dobrowski,j. von drljben. riarch 1957. Reprinted in:Loschutz

G.Op.Cit. P.155, ' 10.DQbrowski,3. In:L.oschutz, G.Op.Cit.P.165.

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The success of Die Blschtrornmel no doubt contributed to the favourable

" 12 reception which aujaited Grass's second volume of verse Gleisdreieck

-on the literary scene of 1950. Durgen Becker spoke during a sessi-on of the Ulestdeutscher Rundfunksendung of the author's 'plastischss

Uerhaltnis zur Sprache' and the 'technisches Raffinement' which typify his work. Becker shoujed a good understanding of Grass's approach to writing and distinguished between poems which endow a poetic scene with macabre figures and background events (thus resembling miniature

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anecdotes) and lyrical pieces such as Kinderlied where language not only conveys information and makes a social comment but also displays a certain degree of artistic autonomy. By way of conclusion Becker hints at a feature of Grass's poetry which is central to an understanding of the author's total cosmos:the tension expressed in the conflict between the visual and linear imagination:

'BOSG, wis nur eine Sutterlinschrift bose sein kann, verbreitet er sich auf liniertem Papier* - so definiert Grass einmal den Dichter: und es ist eben diese Bosheit, Oder anders:diesar Widerspruch gegen die ,,lini3rte", also die vorgezeichnete und reglementierte 'u>'elt,, der Gunter

1 5 Grass als tiner, engagierten Dichter ausgibt,

Karl Krolow displayed a feeling for the 'aggressive Zartlichksit' of the Gleisdreieck collection and attempted to assess the significance of the poems within the development of the lyricist since the

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Windhuhner. On [larch 29 1961 Krolow spoke on a 'Sudwestfunksendung' from Baden-Baden, talked of the 'Uespsnsummen' of the early work and It discovered in the more recent Grass 'ei.ne Tendenz zu einem tuckisch

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naiven, zwischen Bodenlosigkeit und Ubermut scnwankenden Singsang, eintir 11

eigentumlichen Liedhaftigkeit, kinderliednah, puppenliednah, Hs went on to define the topographic features of this new dimension in the poet's work:the absurdity of Arp's doll-world, a preference fcr the poetic

lamentation and a form of expression whose objectivity was opposed to any 12.Grass,G.Gleisdreisck,Luchterhand.Neuwied und Berlin,1960,

13oBecker,3.liJestdeutscher Rundf unksendung, KBln. February 15.1961 , Reprinted in:Loschlltz,G.Op,Cit,P. 167.

14.Grass,G.Kinderlied, Gd.P,9.

1 5.Becker,D. In:Losch(!itz,G,np.Cit.P. 1 68,

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kind of vagueness or abstractneos:

Die GecJichte des Guntcr Grass-auch die neuen des uorliegenden

fJandes~'naben die rahigkeit, 5innfalligkeit und AbsurditBt

gewisssrmapen als lyrischen Kreisel abschnurren zu lessen, dessen durchdringend leichter Ton uon sehr nachhaltiger

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Wirkung ist.

Gbnter Grass's increasing inuoluement in the political life of the

Bundesrepublik forms thie biographical backdrop to a collection of poems 1 9

which appeared in 1967-entitled Ausqefraqt and published by Luchterhand,

The author's political 'engagement' and hisj support for Willy Brandt in

the election cafnpaign of 1955 were not overlooked by the critics in

Germany. Marcel Reich-Ranicki remarked in'Die Zeit' (Hamburg) on !'lay 19th

1967 that Grass's passion for politics may be to the detriment of his

poetry:

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Der Autor der 'Blechtrommel' hat seine Leidenschaft fur die Politik erst spat entdeckt. Was er uersaumt zu haben glaubt,

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mochte ar jetzt urn so eifriger nachholen-auch in der Dichtung«

In this article Reich-Ranicki draws the reader's attention to certain

characteristics of Grass's lyric and shows how these new poems proceed

from objects, observations and situations which are in their turn

elucid-ated in the poetic text:i,e.'ausgefragt'. This critic also makes an

acute comment on the 'political' value of certain anti-protest poems when he writes:

Mit Recht schreibt er ^Grassj :,, Ich frage, prosaisch wie

mein Gropvater, nach dem Zweck." Genau dies ist die Frage,

die auch an den Uerfasser des Gedichts ,,IrgGnduas machen"

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gerichtet werden mup"

1 a.Krolow,K,In:Loschutz,G.Op.Cit.P. 1 71

19,Grass,G, Ausggfraqt.Luchterhand. Neuwisd und Berlin, 1955

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p. 9 [^lichael Lentz displayed a keener eye for the real nature of Gllinter Grass's political •inuoluement' when he reuieujed Ausgefraqt in the 'Westdeutsche A.llgenieine.' He wrote:

Die lyrischen Texte des Autors konzentrieren sich auf zu;si Themenschwerpunkte, die oft miteinander uerschmelzen: auf die Erfahrungen des politisch Engagierten und die Reflexionen privater Erlebnisse, Sehr aufschlupreich sind jene Verse, in denen sich Grass Gedanken uber seine politsche riission rnacht. In ihnen schwingen Molltone mit, Resignation, der Ruckzug des BarrikadenkHmpfers auf die Plattform des nachdenklichen

21a Zynikers scheint uollzogen, M

Peter Hartling" regards the poet of Ausq G f r 3 Q 3 S essentially a

'Gelegenheitsdichter' and compares Grass with two other Berlin lyricists; Gunter Herburger and Nicolas Born, Hartling comments:

Diese Lyrik hat, mich uei-gnugt's. eine fJeigung zur klohnkuche, zum Durgerlichen; zwischen KGc^!topf und Gropuater werden

Zeilen gespannt, liJer will, kann Theokrit, Gleim, Uz, Herburger and Grass unter einem Begriff zusammentrsiben:Idylliker. Der Unterschied ist, dap Theokrit die Idylle fand, Gleirn und Uz sie akzeptierten und die Berliner ihre Bruche genieperisch nachschreiben,^^

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A fortnight later Hans Fiayer reported in the Berlin 'Tagesspiegel' on Das lyrische Taqebuch des Gunter Grass . In this review - subtitled 'Anleitung zum richtigen Lesen' - l^iayer recognizes the pedagogic intentions of the author and compares the volume with Brecht's

'Hauspostille' :

21a.Lentz,'liJestdeutsche AllgBmeine' Dune 3, 1967,

22. Hartling,P, Per Spiegel.ilamburq. Duly 9.1967. In: Loschutz. G.Op.Cit. Pp. 181-183. 23. Hartling,P. Per Spiegel.Hamburg. Duly 9.1967. P.I 83

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Das lyrische Tagebuch ergibtj 5.m Zusammanhoric golesen, den Karnpf eines Aufklarors gegen die gGsellschaftlicha und geistige , jFormierung" ...Erbaulich ist dies alles nicht, aber lidchtig. Das gait bereits fur die ,,Hauspostiile" .Dieser neue

Gedichtband konnte den Titel tragen, ,\;'om arrnen G.G." Aber auch damals, beim Uorbild, beim armen B.B.,rnupte nan sich huten, das lyrische Ich jener Gedichte mit dem realen Autor

u . 25 zu ueruechseln.

Not all critics hou/ever were billing to applaud Grass's attempt at mixing politics with poetry. Reich-Ranicki's disenchantment with the group of anti-protest pieces in Ausgefrant is also evident in the

reactions of Erich Fried (whose Und Vietnam und ^^is clearly under attack 27

from Grass's satirical zeal in Irqendwas machen ^ when he came to review the latter's verse in Duly 1967. He began by asking whether Ausqefraqt was not perhaps 'fragwurdig'? Fried concluded:

'Ausgefragt' -schreibt er-sechzig Gedichte, gute und sctilechte, kurze und lango, dazwischen einige Zeichnungen des Autors,meist

II II II schwacner als jene, die die, Uorzuge der liJindhuhner•

illustrierten. Zuerst auf ein unfaires Gedicht gegen Peter Weiss und auf die zwischen zwei Schweinskopfzeichnungen

dargebotenen Protestgedichte gegen Protestgedichte aufmerksam gemacht, die aus eigenem Unbehagen einen schopferischen

Ausweg suchen, indem sic die ,,Qhnmachtige Wut" der

Protestierenden verhohnen, ginq ich ans Lesen der M 28 Ubrigen Gedichte mit teils machtiger, teils ohnmachtiger Wut.

Possibly the fairest assessment of Ausqefraqt is contained in Uwe 5chultz% article Auskunft uber die Ohnnacht which appeared in the Frankfurter

Rundschau on August 12, 1967:

• Nicht entscheidend mag sBin,dap der politisch draufgangerische Dichter Grass allzu optimistisch auf eine aussichtslose Umkehr der opportunistischen Politiker gshofft hat, beachtet aber

25. f'layer ,H.TaqesspieG8l, Berlin. Duly 23.1967.P.35

26. Fried,E.Und Vietnam und. Hundert Gedichte. Klaus liiagenbach,Berlin 1966 27. Grass,G.Irqendwas machen. Ag,Pp.59-63.

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p. 11 solltc werdBn, dal3 ein Schriftcteller, der personJich einsatzfreudigste Westdeutschlands, sich an den weichen WSndnn pragmatischer TagBspolitik wundergerannt hat, bis

,, , 283 zur iiJut,.»

Uue Schultz's judgment sounded the final note in the

journalistic eualuation of Grass's lyrical output. Since 1,957 Grass has not published any further volumes of uerse but has been content to dedicate his talent to the epic muse. There have been a number of academic critics, however, who have endeavoured to assess Grass's contribution to the German lyric and his place in German literature. To these I shall now turn.

Kurt Lothar Tank was the first to devote his attention to Grass the lyricist and to give a detailed account of his imaginative world. In two chapters of his monograph Tank provides an intelligent analysis of the two collections which appeared between 1955 and 1965. Beginning with

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the surrealistic fantasies of the Uorzuae der lii'indhuhner he attempts to characterise the main themes and motifs which go to make up Grass's lyrical Weltanschauung and at the same time convey to the reader some insight into the artist's approach to his work. Central to his under-standing of Grass is what is called the 'dialectic of objects':

Aus dem Gegen-Stand zum Gegenstand ergibt sicn die

Bewegung, der ProzeB des Lebens,eine Dialektik,diR Crenzen setzt und Grenzen aufhebt...Der Poet,heute wie zur Zeit

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Homers befahigt,in unerschlossene Bereiche einzudringen, nimmt uns bei der Hand. Er gibt dem verloschenden Traum Kontur,erweitert mit Hilfe neuer Spielarten des Humors~ man denke an Christian florgenstern-die Dialektik der Gegenstande; er stellt,indem er isoliert,Bezuge zwischen

11 29 sonst unverbundenen, nicht sichtbaren Gegenstanden har.

283. Schultz, U. Frankfurter Rundschau August 12,1957. P.6

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p . 12 Karl Krolow attcfiipts to approach Grass's poems by linking them with Dadaism and Surrealism. In the fifth chapter of his book Aspekte

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zeitoenossischer deutscher Lyrik -entitled 'Das Gedicht als Spiel'-Kroloiii points to the configuration of Hans Arp's ' Puppenzyklus' which according to him anticipates such poems as Grass's Lamento bei Glatteis;

Der liberbeweglichkeit solcher Konfiguration entspricht sine Art Gerinnen der Uorter zur Schemenhaftigkeit einer

Puppenwelt. Die Puppengedichte bei Arp und bei Grass sind derart zu uerstGhen. Das spielerische Element wird auf diese

31 lileise eingefroren zu halber Leblosigkeit,

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Dust like Peter Hartling, Helmut HeiBenbuttel and Hans Arp himself Grass is for Krolow a writer on the edge of silence:

Das Haskenzugartige,cin Taschanspielertreiben, das Trickhafte; dies alles verschafft solcher Poesie ihr eigenartiges Dasein,

II >> in dem der Autor nur noch die Faden zusammenhalt oder fahrenlapt-ein Gchemen im Hintergrund, ein Beobachter der

* " 3 2 Szene,dia ohne sein geistiges Teilnehmen ablauft.

In his essay Das Problem des lanqen und kurz en Gedichts heuto Krolou; discusses Grass as a 'Gelegenheitsdichter'. He compares the author of the ti'indhijhner with Gllinter Eich who with a sharp cociological intellect

33 composes verse 'um sich in der Wirklichkeit zu o r i e n t i e r e n ' i he occasional tendency towards preciosity in Grass's poems is brought to light: jGegenstande der Natur' ,uon denen Gunter Grass in seinem

Gedicht ,,Diana oder die Gegenstande" halb belustigt-ironisch spricht, warden unter solchen Umstanden fur den Lyriker zu Trophaen in einer Sammlung uon Merkwurdigkeiten, II

Gegenstandlichkeit, aufs neue zur Sprache gebracht, mu6 damit rechnen, ins Raritatenkabinett uersetzt zu werden, was ihre Ruckehr und ihre Anwesenheit nicht widerlegt sondern im Zusammenhang mit der Verzichterklarung zu verstehen ist, die

54 vorausgegangtn war.

30. KrolowjK, Aspekte zeitqenossischer deutscher Lyrik. Gutersloher Uerlagshaus.Gerd [lohn.Berlin.1951.Ch.S.Das Gedicht als Spiel. Pp.141-145.

31. Ibid, P.141 . 32. Ibid. P.143.

33. Krolow,K,Das Prnblera des lanqen und kurznn Gedichts-heute

Abhandlungen der Klasse der Literatur 3ahrgang 1966.NR.I, Uerlag der Akademie der UissE^nschaften und der Literatur in Wainz in Kommission bei Franz Steiner Uerlag

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p.13

The English literary critic Michael Hamburger in his introduction 3 5

to the Penguin edition - The Poens of Gunter Grass ~ gives a short sketch of the author's lyrical landscape. He mentions particularly

Grass's interest in and fascination with objects, his dadaistic uord-play and the autononious and self-sufficient nature of his imagination.

Hamburger writes:

Like the Dadaists and Surrealists before him, he lets words and images play instead of forcing them into a preconceived pattern of meaning. Unlike them, he exercises a firm control-firmer in the Dog Years than in the Tin Drum, control-firmer in the new poems than in the earlier ones - so as to limit that

3 6 element of chance so dear to the Dadaists,

He goes on to indicate the significance of ttie drawings which accompany the texts serving to provide a contour and an explanation for the poems themselves:

The same processes can be seen in Grass's drawings,especially those that illustrate his second bock of poems:the super-realism with which Grass concentrates on a spider, a hen, a doll or a nun becomes surrealistic by a magnification of certain features that are important to Grass because they

37 correspond to deeply personal emotions and experiences.

Hamburger's interpretation of the famous Kinderlied is also illuminating in which he discovers 'a characteristic tension between the freedom of child's play and the restrictive absolutism of totalitarian societies'. Grass's task as a poet is 'to assert and enact the freedom denied to the children of his poem. Nor is it an accident(Hamburger concludes) that in all his work Grass has excelled at rendering the mentality of children with all its fantasies, cruelties ana perversities, as well

. ^ . '38 as its ingenuousness.

34, Krolcw,K, D^__ProblBm des lanqen und kurzen Gedichts-heute

Abhandlungen der Klasse der Literatur Jahrgang 1966.NR.I, Uerlag der Akademie der Uissenschaften und der Literatur in flainz in Kommissicn bei Franz Steiner Verlag

GmbH.Wiesbaden.1966, P,4 i<

35, Hamburger,H. The Poemo of Guntnr Grass, Penguin.London 1969. Introduction Pp,9-13 35, Ibid.P.12

37. Ibid.P,12

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L i k e K r o l o u , Hcimburgsr a s s o c i a t e s G r a s s w i t h Hans A r p , In h i s

c o l l e c t i o n of e s s a y s p u b l i s h e d in 1966 Zujisciien dsn S p r a c h e n

-he h i g h l i g h t s tlie s t y l i s t i c and a t m o s p h e r i c s i m i l a r i t i e s b e t w e e n

G r a s s ' s [aag£s-^ih]^'^and s e v e r a l of A r p ' s p o e m s from the thirties^''

T h i s c r i t i c also d i s p l a y s a fine u n d e r s t a n d i n g for the b a c k g r o u n d

mood of s e r i o u s m e l a n c h o l y w h i c h , in spite of their f l a s h e s of c o m i c

a b s u r d i t y , p e r u a d e s G r a s s ' s p o e m s :

U i e sckion D a m e s Doyce wu[3te,kann der E r n s t in d i e s e r

R i c h t u n g ( d e s K o m i s c h e n und K i n d i s c h e n ) oft erst j e n s e i t s

der K o m i k w i e d e r e r r e i c h t w e r d e n , i n d e m die K o m i k n i c h t If

u e r m i e d e n , 3 o n d e r n in einen neuen E r n s t h i n u b e r g e l e i t e t w i r d .

Das ist im d e u t s c h e n G e d i c h t seit H o r g e n s t e r n und R i n g e l n a t z

dem L y r i k e r G u n t e r G r a s s wie keinem a n d e r e n , und in 42 b e w u n d e r n s w e r t e r ljJeise,gelungen,

A m u c h severer critic of Grass the l y r i c i s t is Heinz P i o n t e k who w i t h i n II

the space of t w e n t y - t w o pages of his w o r k Planner,die G e d i c h t e mac^len

p a s s e s literary judgment on his b r o t h e r p o e t . He o b s e r v e s :

G r a s s hat so s c h l e c h t e G e d i c h t e g e s c h r i e b e n , d a p man ihn

keinen gutcn L y r i k e r nsnriGn k a n n . bi^sss hat so Q u t s G2dicht.8 <4 geschrieben,daj3 man ihn keinen s c h l e c h t e n L y r i k e r n e n n s n k a n h ,

P i o n t e k is not p a r t i c u l a r l y i m p r e s s e d by the lij'indhuhner p h a s e :

Die u n g e w o h n l i c h e K r a f t , m i t der hisr e i n e W e l t in P h a n t a s i s

v e r w a n d e l t w u r d e , i m p o n i e r t e m i r , a b e r mit den e i n z e l n e n

G e d i c h t e n konnte ich wenig a n f a n g e n . ^ ^

3 9 . Hamburger,PI. Z u i s c h e n den_ S p r a c h e n , E s s a y s und G e d i c h t e K i e p e n h a v s r und w'ietsch. F r a n k f u r t am [^ain,1966.

4 0 . G r a s s , G . K l a p p s t u h l e . Gg. P. 1 9 .

4 1 . Hamburger,f1. O p . C i t . P p . 1 4 5 - 1 4 7 .

4 2 . H a m b u r g e r , n . D p . C i t . P . 1 5 6 ,

4 3 . Piontek,!!. M a n n e r , d i e G e d i c h t e m a c h e n . Z u r L y r i k h e u t e . H o f f m a n n

und Campe W e r l a g . Berlin 1 9 6 8 . P p . 1 7 9 - 2 D 2 ,

4 4 . I b i d . P . 1 7 9 .

(18)

p.15

The most successful of Grass's poems, he feals, are a number from the Gleisdreieck series - especially Freitag/^^Racine lap, sein 'aJappen uerandern^'^'^ Adebar/^^ Gesang der Orote im Backofenf"^ Zuqefroren^^' and the narrative poem about the fight of a Polish cavalry officer

51

against the German tanks at Kutnc - Pan Kiehot. In Piontek's opinion this work celebrates the triumph of an imagination which proves greater than technocratic man ('den unbegabten Tieren/die auf ^lotore angewiesen' II 53 compared with which Kiehot is 'haushoch uberlegen'. With the aid of such an imagination poetry is 'uon der gleichen Beschaffenheit wie

54

der Rut der traurigen hegabten Helden aller Zeiten.' Piontek finds little to praise in the Ausgefragt poerns. He does speak of the gentle irony of Rein Freund I'Jalter Henn ist tot^^and c o m m e n t s N i e m a n d , der Poesie liebt, wird dieses Gedicht ohne Ergriffenheit lesen konnsn.'^^ But in general his judgment is unfavorable,

5 V

Gunter Grass als politischer Alitor is the title of an essay by Hans Egon Holthusen from his book Pladoyer fur den Einzelnen.

Kritische Beitraqe zur literarischen Diskussion. 'Here Holthusen is

mainly concerned with Grass's spic and dramatic work but in endeavouring to clarify the latter's political attitudes he does provide an insight into the situations which find expression in the more obviously political poems of Gleisdreieck and Ausoefragt volumes. Himself a former member of the S.S. (and on occasions attacked by Grass for his political sins as well as his literary ones) Holthusen shows an understanding of the phenomenon of 'engagement' in the post-war world when he writes:

Das Neue und erst aus den Bedingungen der Gegenwart heraus Uerstandliche am Phanomen Grass liegt darin,daB der 'Jerfssser der 'Blechtrommel' nicht,wie Hauptmann oder auch der Thomas Rann der zwanziger Dahre auf dem 'Umweg' uber die Literatur und unter betonter Einhaltung literarischer Formen zu einer politischen Position gekommen ist,sondern daB er von Anfang an mit dem Anspruch aufgetreten ist, die Barriers zwischen

46.Grass,G.treitag, Gd,P.14,

Racing lasst soin bJappen verandern. Gd.P.SB. 48»Grass.G.Adebar. Gd.P.B,

49»Gr3SStG.Gesang der Brote im Backofen. Gd,Po12, 50.Grass.G.Zuqefrorcn„ Gd.P.57.

51 .Grass.G.Pan Kiohot. C-d- Po55.

52. Grass.r .Pan Kiehot. Gd.P.55. 53.PionteiCjH.Op,Cit.Po 1 88, 54.Piontek,H. Gp.Cit.P. iBB 55.,Grass,G.['lein Freund Walter Henn ist tot. Ag.P p,29-30. 56. Pi ont ek. Op. Gi t. P. 201 ,S7. Holthusen, H. £. Pi^oXi^JJ^LJien

(19)

p. 10

Literatur und Politik, einsichtlich" dsr Parteipolitik, einzureipen und die eiqene Kunstubung ais eine politische

50 Aufgabe zu uerstehen.

The overcoming of the past - or as.Holthusen calls it - die

'Uiedergutmachung' 'kann in elegischer Form geschehen, wie etwa in Thomas l^lann's Doktor Faustus , es kann auch mit

satiristisch-parodistischen Ritteln unternominen werden wie bei Gunter Grass,wobei sich dann fruher- oder spater herausstellen u;ird,daB hinter der

satirisch-59 grotesken Aufmachung ein eigentlich elegischer Impuls sich uerbirgt.'

In the voice oT the SPD-campaigner Holthusen can still detect 'das Lamento'.

nore recently Heinrich Uormwog has written a brief introduction to an edition of Grass's poems which appeared in 1971,^'^ He indicates the auth-or's sense of the concrete situation and his attempt at 'Auseinandsrsetz-ung' in post-war German society:

Seine Gedichte aus fast anderthalb Dahrzehnten, Belege sol-cher Au3einandersetzung,GpiegBln einen Prozess,der bis zu einem gewissen tirade beispielhaft ist fUr BawusstseinsuerSnderungen in dieser Zeit,die Politisierung gegen Ende dieser Phase ein-begriffBn»Jedenfalls ist seine individuei.le Realisation in diesen Gedichten uorzUglich geeignet,sich an ihr zu reiben,

61 Das bezeichnet ihre AktualitSt.

literarischen Diskussion.

R.Piper und Co.Uerlag.Munchen.1957. GOnter Grass als politischer Autor, Pp.40-58

5B. Ibid.Pp.40-41 59. Ibid P..44.

(20)

Pel?

By and large tho criticism of Grass's poetry has bsen diuided if>to two'schools. One has reacted to the author's political stance in a language at times ideological while the other has been content with subjsctive interpretations of a few individual poems» In the foreground of the first school has been Erich Fried. His adverse criticism has been the harshest yet fairest, Guntsr Grass has indeed adopted a variety of political positions beginning with a kind of individual anarchism and emerging from the radical years of the late sixties with £ policy of reform to entertain at the present moment a mods of

libErel rationalism on the right wing of the S.P.D, (Sozial

demokratischs Partei Deutschlands). I shall discuss this developmsnt further in the final chapter of my work®

Hans riayer has shown a fine awareness of the satirical verve and talent for social criticism which, on occasions. Grass displays,, The comparison with Brscht is appropriate yet Mayer does not fully highlight, the important ideological differences which do separate the "Hauspostille" from "Ausgefragt",

Of the second school,

(21)

p.18

Of ths othsr major critics who have dealt with the lyrical writings of Gunter Grass in essay form - (^larcel Reich-Ranicki, Tiichacjl Hamburger J Heinz Piontek and H.E.Holthusen - only Piontek has really corns to grips with the individual poems in a meaningful and fruitful manner. Michael Hamburger's comments lack any sort of in~depth treatment and do little but give a generalised subjective impression of the contours of Grass's imaginative universe.

Reich-Ranicki's flippantly journalistic readings contain a few astute judgments but give hardly any clue to the internal form and meaning of the poet's texts themselves, while HeE.Holthusen's discussion barely touches on the individual poems. Piontek then has so far given us the fullest, most constructive criticism of

(22)

p.19

(23)

i.2.0

Gunter Gross was born in Langfuhr- - a suburb of Danzig - in the year 1927.

Of Kaschubian extractiDn, he was the son of a grocer who has

become part of German literary history in the person of 'Herr f-latzerath' • Oskar's father in Die Blechtrornmel• Grass's Danzig background forms the environment for his tun successful nouels - Die Blechtrornmel and

la.

Hunde.iahre - and in the autobiographical reminiscences of the poem 1 b.

Kleckerburq the author looks back on his early years and documents his experiences (like Kafka and Rilke before him) of a German-speaking child in an East European society:

Uer fragt noch wo? Wein Zungenschlag ist baltisch tuckisch stubenwarm,

Wie macht die Ostsee? - Blubb, pifff, pschsch... 2 Auf deutsch auf polnisch: Blubb, pifff, pschsch...

As a young man Gunter Grass showed a keen interest in drawing and

painting and his talent in the visual arts is clearly in evidence in the sketches and graphics which accompany his own volumes of verse as well

I' !1 3

as Ingeborg Bachmann's collection of 1968 entitled Ein Ort fur Zufalle,

With the entry of the German troops into Poland Grass joined the Hitler Youth movement and as a sixteen-year-old became a ground-attendant in the 'Luftwaffe'. Memories of this time are also succinctly

recorded in Kleckerburg where the author confesses:

Gespielt hab ich mit Bombensplittern. Und aufgewachsen bin ich zwischen

4 dem Heilgen Geist und Hitlers Bild,

II

In tha course of a speech which Gunter Grass gave in 1957 during his visit to Israel he made reference to his precocious political commitment

1o Grass,G. Die B]echtrommel. Luchterhand.Neuwied und Berlin,1959. 1 a,Grass,G. Hundejahre.Rowohlt,1963.

1b.Grass,G. Kleckerburg. Ag. Pp.88-92. 2. Grass,G. Kleckerburg. Ag. P.88.

3. Bachmann,!. Ein Ort fljr Zufalle.i'lit Zeichnungen von Gunter Grass.Klaus, Wagenbach. Berlin.1968.

(24)

p. 2.1

when he remarked:

P'lein Gaburtsjahr sagt:ich war zu jung, um ein Nazi gewesen zu sein, aber alt genug, um uon einem System, das uon 1933 bis 1945 die Welt zuerst in Staunen, dann in Schrecken uersetzte, mitgepragt zu uerden. Es spricht also zu Ihnen weder ein bewahrter Antifascist noch ein ehemaliger Nationalsozialist, eher das Zufallsprcdukt eines halbwegs zu fruh geborenen und halbuegs zu spat infizierten 3ahrgangs,^

Towards the end of the war Grass joined the German Army, was slightly wounded and spent some time in an American prisoner-of-war camp. In Kleckerburq the poet combines impressions not only of the occupation of Germany under the Allies but also of his native Poland by German troops in the thirties - 'Immer ist Invasion' comments Grass in another poem (Normandie)^ This logic of domination is conveyed by means of a

montage-technique by means of which the various stages in the author's life are superimposed on one another. History is experienced as a

court-room while the lyrical speaker reflects on his Baltic origins from the post-war vantage point of a barber-shop chair:

Gestrichnes Korn, gezielte Fragen verlangt die Kimme lebenslang: Als ich verliess den Zeugenstand, an Wande, vor Gericht gestellt,.,

der Friseur behauchte den Spiegel und sein Finger schrieb:

7 Gebcren wann? Nun sag schon, wo?

The poem itself resembles a photograph album in which snapshots from the past are included as 'exhibit' items in the barbershop 'trial'. These images also enable him to reconstruct his identity. Anxiety is expressed in syncopated sentences and punctuated phrases:

5. Grass,G. C'ber das Selbstverst'andliche. Reden.Aufsatze,Gffene Briefe, Kommentare. Luchterhand. 1968, P.132.

(25)

p. 22. Ich buchstabiere :lij'rzeszcz hiess fruher

Das Haus blicb stshen, nur der Putz. 8 Den Friedhof, den ich, gibts nicht mehr.

Long-forgotten childhood memories arise from the depths of the poet':, unconscious and are listed in an inventory of objects and names of friends and relatives:

Bucheckern, Bernstein, Brausepuluer, dies Taschsnmesser and dies Abziehbild, ein Stuck uom Stuck, Tonnagezahlen,

II '* Fiinutenzeiger, Knopfe, Munzen,

II 9 fur jeden Platz ein Tutchen Wind.

World history and personal events intermingle in a patchwork of political and geographical references:

Das uar zur Zeit der Rentenmark.

Hier, nah der f'lottlau, die ein Nebenfluss,

uo Forster brullte und Hirsch Fajngcld schwieg,.

Personal reminiscences are precisely dated:

hier, wo ich rneine ersten Schuhe zerlief, und als ich sprechen konnte, das Stottern lernte:Sand, klatschnass,,.

11 Das war knapp zuanzig Dahre nach Uerdun;

The 'I' of the ooem endeavours to orient itself in the present by a representation of the past. Grass's Roman Catholic upbringing as well as the Baroque architecture and monuments of old Danzig which form tho scenic backdrop to the early chapters of Die Blechtrommel are also alluded to hare:

Ich zahlte Giebel, keiner fehlte: Das Nittelalter holt sich ein.

(26)

p.z^

Nur jenss Denkmal rrdt dem Schwanz 1 2 ist westujarts and day on gerittan.

The barber's reiterated demands for details concerning the poet's origins are only satisfied in the final lines of the poem where the author points to the Baltic countryside of his youth as the sole

justification of his existence. Kleckerburq is thus a kind of personal 'Beichtspiegel'(a penitential book in the Catholic Church) which enables the lyrical speaker (and the reader) to question his conscience. The final four lines express the Danziger's loue for his homeland and the Baltic sea:

I(Ti Ohr ucrblieben Schiffssirenen, II

gekappte Satze, Schreie gegen Wind, paar heile Glocken, f'lundungsfeuer

und etuas Ostsee:Blubb, pifff, pschsch, 13

As a parallel to this lyrical confession one finds in Grass's Tel Av/iv address a slightly rriore rhetorical statement of patriotism in which the writer's mixture of eighteenth century rusticality and nineteenth century optimism finds linguistic expression:

Das Land aus dem ich komme, ist schoncheitere, leicht gezeichnete Landschaften gehen in melancholisch flache uber. Hier uchnen uerschlossene und trotzt ihrer Einsilbigkeit beredte, dort zutrauliche and rasch zu begeisternde flenschen, Ihrem Hang zum wolkigen

Ungeformten widsrspricht das Verlangen nach abgesicherter Idylle.''^

Apart from the poem Kleckerburq Grass has best recorded impressions of his youth in the nouella Katz and f^alj^ and in his two novels

-Hunde.iahre and pj.e Blecl-itrommel, In the novella Danzig is seen in terms of the harbour whsre the hero Mahlke dives for the remnants cf a sunken wreck. In the novels Grass describes the world of shop-keepers

12.Grass,G. Kleckerburq. Ag.P.OB. 13.Grass,G. Kleckerburq. Ag.P.91

14.Grass,G. (jber das Selbstverstandliche.Reden,Aufsatza,Gffene Briefg, Komrnentaro. Luchterhand. 1 958. P. 128.

(27)

P.Z4-and petty officials of Danzig during the 3 0 ' s . The private guilts P.Z4-and

anxieties which haunt Oskar and I^atern prefigure the mood of repression 15 and stifled fear in such poems as Platzanqst and Dreht euch nicht um

from the collection Ausqefraqt uhich appeared in 1967. In fact, the

novels contain passages which are almost ujord-for~uiord prose versions

of certain poems. Grass's memories of his ciiildhood in Danzig are also M 1 "7

contained in a cycle of lyrical episodes entitled Per Saulenheiliqe

(The Saint on the Pillar) composed during his stay in France in 1950/51,

Here a young m a n , a bricklayer by profession, tires of village life and

builds a high pillar from which he is able to survey the activities of

the citizens below. His breakfast is brought to him each day on a pole

and the saint spends his time transforming his observations into a

series of poems. The unpublished cycle later became the inspiration

for the figure of Oskar himself - as Grass explained to Horst Bienek

in a radio interview in 1962: ti

Aus Oskar ist dann ein umgekehrter Saulenheiliger geworden, II

Es erwies sich, dass der i^ann auf der Saule zu statisch i s t ,

um ihn Prosa sprechen zu lassen, und deswegen ist Oskar von I! 1 8

der Saule herabgestiegen.

f'^emories of boyhood appear occasionally in poems where Grass turns

away from life in the welfare state and gives himself over to impressions

from the past:

Also Gerausche sammeln und an die Wand pinnen.

Die Kreissage meines Grossvaters konnte einen ganz hellen

Nachmittag

zu Dachlatten zerschneiden,

1 9 (Schlaqer im Ohr)

At other times Grass's fondness for Danzig and its environment merges

with an ardent nationalism. The well-known chapter in Die Blechfcrommel

20

(Soil ich Oder soli ich nicht) where a short nistory of Danzig is

15a,Grass,G. Platzanqst. A g . P,41.

1 6 , Grass,G, Dreht such nicht u m , Ag. P.40,

1 7 , Grass,G, Der SaulenhsiliQe, Cited in: Tank,K.L,Gunter Grass.Kopfe d.ss XX. Jahrhur.derts. Colloquium Verlag.BeTlTn7?965'."""

1 0 . Grass,G. InrRadio interview witn Horst Gienek, Quote§^ln?Tan!<,K,L. Gunter Gross. Kupfe das XX. jahrhunderts.Colloquium Verlag, fjQrlin.l 965. P.55,

1 9 , Grass,G, Schlaqer in Ohr. Ag. P,17,

(28)

painted against a backdrop of succBSsiue foreign invasions, invokes a patriotic theme which has also inspired tuo of Grass's finest pieces:

71 2"? Pan Kiehot" and Adebar

The folk-hero Pan Kiehot - a Polish Don Quixote - may be seen as a symbol of the author's oun 'tour de force' in the world of literary success:

Ich sag es immer, Polen sind begabt, Sind zu begabt, uozu, begabt,

begabt mit Handen, kussen mit dem Tlund, begabt auch darin :Schwermut, Kauallerie; kam Don Quichotte, ein hiochbegabter Pole,

II der stand bei Kutno auf dem Hugel, hielt hinter sich das Abendrot und ritt den unbegabten Tieren,

die auf Motore angewiesen, 23 direkt ins Feldgrau, in die Flanke..,

Adebar shows another, sadder face of Grass's homeland. The

recurring image of the stork - usually a metaphor of rebirth and hope ~ is hsra a signifier of death:

Einst stand hier vieles auf dem Halm, und auf Kaminon standen Bt'irche; dem Leib entfiel das funfte Kind.

Lang wusst ich nicht, das es noctt Storche gibt, dass ein Kamin, der rauchlos ist,

den Storchen Fingerzeig bedeutet.^^

In the final two stanzas the poem's message bGcomes explicit in the reference to Treblinka. The grotesque alliance of religious motifs ('sonntags', 'gesegnet', 'Jungfrau Maria') and crass physical process ('rauchte', 'Fleisch', 'Heissluft') is heightened by the absurd images

(29)

,»2G

of the 'Segelflieger' and of the stork-riding virgin;

Das war in Polen, wo die Dungfrau Haria steif auf Stcrchen rsitet,

doch-wenn der Halm fallt-nach Agypten fliehto^^

The movement of the lyi:"ic describes a spiral of associations delicately poised on the image of the 'blade of grass' in the first line. Upon this are constructed tujo more images ('chimney-stack' end 'storks') which are further modified as the poem progresses. The storks are

initially seen as messengers of birth ~ but birth described in ambiguous terms; 'dem Leib entfiel das fllinfte Kind'.

In the second and third stanzas they are the ominous accomplices of the -as yet- smokeless chimney-stacks, are personified ('halbstark') and become one with the smoke from the chimneys of Treblinka:

sie sind der Rauch, der weiss mit roten Beinen 26

auf feuchten Wiesen niederschlSgt,

The reference to 'red and white' (Poland's national colours) also occurs ^^ Psn Kiehot Kiehot's 'red and white' lance. Thus the storks take part in the process of death and reappoar in mythical guise in the last stanza of the poem.

The allusion to the falling blade of grass in the final line breaks the spell of images and serves to conv/ey the essential absurdity of death and destruction®

(30)

p.27

Images of rustic joy pBrmsate Grass's first collection of verse Die Uorzugs der U.^i^d^iuh^e^ uhich appeared in 1956, Chickens, eggs and farm-yard objects such as fences, scarecrows and vegetables provide the poet with a source of recurring themes. Tho prevailing mood is one of idyllic delight in the sound and colour of the environment experienced in a sequence of impressionistic monologues. Grass is here content to explore his private imaginative world out of which he is able to create a lyrical microcosm, A certain playfulness characterises many of these poems which move to and fro from the world of sensuous experience into the realm of autoncmous phantasy and back again to the formal reality of the word in print. The poet is patiently receptive to familiar impressions which he recreates in the form of melodic soliloquies or lyrical dialogues with objects and allegorical figures borrowed very often from the German literary tradition®

The title poem itself is more than a simple description of farm-yard chickens. Behind the surface meaning is a skilful allegory of poetic creativity. The poem falls into two parts - the first a description of the chickens as they leave their perches and come to bs fed^ and the second a six^lina reflection on the talent his chickens display to

perpetuate their species. The fluttering motion of the birds is captured in a suriss ,of relative conjunctions which give reasons for the ouner's preferBnoe for such creatures:

Weil sie kaum Platz einnehmen auF ihrer Stange aus Zugluft

und nicht nach meinen zahmen Stuhlen picken,

liJeil sie die harten Traumrinden nicht vsrschmahan, nicht den Buchstaben nachlaufen,

die der Brieftrager jeden florgen vor meiner Tur verliert^ Weil sie stehen bleibsnj

von der Brust bis zur Fahne

einc duldsame Flache, ganz klein beschrieben, kaine Feder verQessen, kein Apootroph.e.

. . . 28 nahre ich

s,ie..-27, Grass,G, Die V/orzuqg der bJindhuhner, Luchterhand.

(31)

The reader is kept in a state of expectation by the repitition of 'ueil' which springs from the title of the poem and introduces the description of the chickens. One observes a 'rnythologisation' of the birds as they move from their perches, across the 'hard edges of dreams' and through the door which is opened by the 'key of allegory' to be nourished by the poet's phantasy. In the second part of the poem the birds recede into a passing 'chapter' where they possess an autonomous existence as well as the power to recreate themselves in the mind of each individual reader:

Oft bei Ostwind,

wenn die Zwischenw^nde umblattern ein neues Kapitel sich auftut, lehne ich glucklich am Zaun, ohne die HUhner zahlen zu

mussen,-II 2 5 weil sie zahllos sind und sich standig vermehren,

The key to the identity of the wind-hens lies in their allegorical nature. They proceed from the poet's own phantasy and arc essentially figurative entities arising from the life of his personal imaginative world. They are only slightly more substantial than the letters of the alphabet which the postman forgetfully drops on the door-step each day, yet without the depth of connotative association which true symbols

contain. They represent not moral qualities in the manner of traditional allegories but a physical process of spontaneous generation. In an article

It

entitled UJindhuhner nusqefraot Paul Konrad Kurz has cleverly shown how the ephemeral birds are a figurative representation of the phenomenon of creativity. He writes:

"Windhuhner," imaginative Gebilde, sind die Gedicnts selbst. Wie es Sonette uber Sonette gibt, so sind ,,Die l/orzuga der Windhuhner," ein Gedicht uber das Gedicht, uber das Grass'scfe

Wersprodukt, Dashalb kann das Schopfer-Ich diese Windhuhner ,,glucklich" anschauen, mit Kenner-Miene sein eigen nennen, sie vorzeigen,..Die Eier, das sind die Ucrte. Deshalb sind diese ,EiBr so leicht/und bekommlich, durchsichtig', Die Worte stehen wie Eier in einer doppeltsn Beziehung, Einmal sind Huhner Erzeugnisse der Eier, sind Gedichte Produkte des 'uJorts. Zum andern legen Htjhner Eier, zeugen Gedichte ,zeugt die imaginative I'orsteJ.lung das einzelne •aiort.^"

(32)

p . 2 5

Dust as chickens produce eggs so the poet's fantasy gives forun to words

in a cycle of continuous creation- in the language of the poem:

weil sie zahllos sind t.

una sich standig uermehren.'

The theme of birds receives a slightly more grotesque treatmsnt in

the opening poem of the iiJindhuhner collection: \./oqelflug. Hera the

poet describes the flight cf a flock of swallows as they move off from a

point above his left eye-brow, journey across an idyllic landscape and

finally return to the observer with a sign of impending r a i n . The first

stanza depicts the actual flight of the b i r d s , the second consists of a

ten line meditation in which the speaker of the poem is transformed into

an actor receiving the applause of an imaginary a u d i e n c e . The opening lip.es

of the piece indicate to the reader that the swallows have their genesis

in the mind of the speaker himself:

liber meiner linken Braue

liegt Start und Ziel . , " . 3 3 fur immer begruncet.

Thn mcvement of birds in air is beautifully captured by the repetition

of 'wenn' clauses which must wait until the final two lines of the first

stanza before they meet the main clause which supports t h e m . The landscape

which forms the backdrop to the flight itself contains idyllic

features-yet behind the peaceful facade of the young woman watering her garden

violence is present. Tha beaks of the swallows prove to be agents of

destruction:

kienn sie der jungen Frau,

die sich uber oen Himmel lehnt

um die Blumen und auch das Unkraut zu begiessen,

die weisse Seite aufschlitzen,

bis ihre riilch l a u f t . ^

3 0 . K u r z , P . IiJindhuhner ausoefraat. Zur Lyrik von Gunter G r a s s .

In:Paul Konrad Kurz . u b e r floderne Literatur.2. Standorte und Deutungon. l^'arlag Josef Knech.t.Frankfurt am flain.1969.

Pp.239-240 ^j. G r a s s , G . Die Vorzuqe dei: Ixlindhuhner. UW. (Introductory Poem)

31. Grass, G . Vooslfluq UU. D.5.

G r a s s , G . Voqalflug UbJ. P . 5 .

(33)

p.30 The personification of the swallows in the following three lines contains an element of humour which serves to dispel the horror of the preceding episode:

bJenn sie sich nahern und auf die Stirn deuten, erkenne ichj dass es Schwalben

sind,-3$'

Bald wird es regnen.

The gesture of pointing to their foreheads is ambiguous. It refers back to the insane act of destruction in the housewife's garden and forward to the imminent downpour of rain.

In the second section of the poem the birds have vanished - except for two references contained in the pronoun form 'sie' which allude to the continuing presence of the swallows in the mind of the speaker. The flight now appears as a kind of imaginary performance which has been engendered by the poet's own fantasy for the benefit of his public - ths reader - and which has provided the actors - the swallows - with an

autonomous existence which extends beyond the written page. In the opening line of this section the birds have liberated themselves from their

progenitor who now reflects on his own impotence after the initial act of creation:

Als sie den Faden

schnitten,-uber der Braue raste das Publikum,~ verliesE ich meinen Stehplatz,

In a moment of reflection he attempts to recall the 'loop' which the birds in flight had described:

3etzt ist es schwer,

die Schleife nur zu erinnern

den Arm zu heben, ihn etwas fortzuschicken, damit er allein ist.

Only with the help of the swallows can the speaker learn to read the language of nature and to decipher the meaning of the 'Uogelflug':

(34)

p. 31 , Ich muss uiader komtnen

und ein Papier steigen lassen, bj'enn sie es dann beschreiben, uerde ich Lesen lernen/

Are the creatures that popu.late Grass's irriaginative universe real or are thsy literary figures with little objective significance beyond the framework of the poem in which they occur? At times the author seems to be playing a joke on himself by deliberately exploiting the areas of his experience where fiction and reality overlap. One is very much reminded of similar resources of literary humour employed by the dramatists of the Absurd-Ionesco and Adamov - or by Grass's contemporary on the German literary scene - Friedrich Durrenmatt, With Grass the lyrical speaker delights in involving himself in various situations - only to disengage himself occasionally in order to endow objects and events with an

autonomous life. A poem for Grass is much like a mask which enables him to make satirical observations on aspects of his society - a mask that is often cleverly discarded to reveal the absurdity of a particular situation.

Grass makes a more explicit use of allegory in a poem about Kafka's hero in Die Uerwandlunp ~ K der Kaf gr 'o. and also in two lyrical pieces which employ the motif of a mythical bird as a mask for the poet's individual exoerienca. K der Kafer is a poem which records the observ-ations of Kafka's cockroach as it lies on its back. In the final stanza the insect is transformed into Kafka himself:

Kafka lag auf dem R'jcken

und K^te Kruses besch^digte Puppen,

4-0

wenn sie den Kindern entfallen, blicken uns nach.

y der Voqei is a short work of minor literary n'lerit where a bird takes cn the form of a I'-weapon which is launched from the poet's pen. The reader is not quite sure whether he is meant to identify with this act of

aggression or to question the social structure of a world that has access to a highly destructive military technology.

Grass, G. Uoqaflug U'oJ. P.5.

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funf Uoqej 5.3 a fable in prose uihich in the allegorical form of a journey poses a question about individual freedom and productivity in the Western worlds The first part cf the triptych describes the origin of the five birds from a garden in the skies over Europe and contains a parody of Goethe's ' liiilhslni f'leister:

Lasst uns Quartette uben, kennst du das Land uo das Uierklee blliht? ^ ^

The birds set off for America:

Hier begann die grosse Reise, die dauernde Wandlung, ujelche am Lnde das Li meinc.

The second part describes the attempts of the five birds to secure employment and in the third section they are reunited with seven others and proceed to form a fence:

Doch da kam D.S.Abraham Brothers, dam die Farm gehorte, der die Freiheit liebte und die Zaune hasste,.,Die Sieben

II „

s^gte er ab, die Funf rammte er in Virginias Erde.

The birds, after this act of destruction, return to life and, although once more out of work, manage to lay five eggs - one for each continant. The actual content of tha eggs remains hidden beneath the veil of allegory:

Auf jeden Fall sollen die Eier voller eindrucksstarker Dberraschungen fur Europe, Amsrika und die ubrigen Erdteile sein,

Funf l/oqel a fable about Germany's economic and political re-birth? Or is the author imitating Christ and the parables - the twelve birds being a representation of the twelve apostles and the various

entrepreneurs being counterparts of the Pharisees? Or is there a significance embedded in the second last sentence:

4T

• Wer liieiss, was alles zwischen Eiweiss and Eigelb Platz hat? (White and yellow are the colours of the Pope's personal flag).

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52a

There is a strong element of direct satire in the description of the birds' arrival in America:

In New York angekorriman, war der Dubel gross. Die Strassen glichen oinem Blumenmeer, Der Prasident gab jedem der funf Uogel einen Panamahut und zeigte seine gutgeput^ten

48 Zahne.

Whatever interpretation one makes, the references to unemployment and outright oppression are intended to indict the society of

producars and a uorld where individual freedom is threatened by the emergence of large corporations^

II

After the war Gunter Grass uorknd for several monttis in a II

potash mine before becoming an apprentice sculptor in Dusssldorf and Berlins At night he worked as a jazz-drummer for a local band. He moved to Paris in the early fifties where ho wrote several

experimental plays ( H o c h w a s s e r O n k o l t Onkel, ^^ and l\!och zehn .riinuben bis Buffalo " ),

48, Grass, G. fDiillJ/pri,^. VliJ. P,42

49, Grass, G, Hp_ghw3sser. In:GrassjG. Theaterspiele.Luchterhand Neuwied und Berlin. 1970, Pp. 7 58~

50, Grassp G, Unkel,Opkel.IniGrass,G. Theaterspiole,Luchterhand Neuwied und Berlin 1970, Pp.59-129

51, Grass, G. r\ioch zehn f'linuten bis Buf falo^, In;Grass,G.TheatBrspiolG Luchterh&nd. ['JouwiBC und Berlin. Pp. 131-150

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p.33 In one of thase plays (Beritten hin und ?ijruckj "one gains an insight into the absurdist workings of Grass's imagination which later finds expressJ.on in lyrical form. Tha two faces of Grass's fantasy are personified in this theatrical sketch in the figures of Pempelfort and Krudeuil,

Grass settled in West Berlin in 1953 and now liues there with his wife and family as a freelance writer, journalist, graphic artist and occasional electioneer for Willy Brandt's Socialist Party. Danzig may be the source of his imaginative life, yet Berlin has been the inspiration for the sophisticated and cosmopolitan realism in his work. Many of ths poems in Gleisdreieck and Ausqefreqt grow naturally out of the urban environment of post-war Berlin with its political

tonsicrsj its specific form of sentimentality and its 'black humour'. In such poems as Brandmauern^^ Gleisdreieck^^ and

Die qrosse Trummerfrau spricht^^ Grass reveals himself as the inheritor of a tradition which begins with the early expressionist poets who sought to discover in the ugliness and banality of the metropolis a new source of lyrical expression. Georg Heym,

Jakob von Hoddis and Ernst Blass were the pioneers of a movement which set out to fulfil the aims of Kurt Miller's 'Neuer Klub's

So ist in der Dichtung unser bewusstes Zielsdie Forrnung II

dar Erlebnisse des intellektuellen Stadters.Wir behaupten (beispielsweise), dass der Potsdamerplatz uns schlechthin II mit gleich starker Innigkeit zu erfullen vermag, wis das Dorfli im Tal des Herrn Hesse.^^

Grass may lack Heym's daemonic vision and Hoddis's talent for verbal experimentation, but in his best poems the experiences of the

'intellectual cosmopolitan' are brought to fruition. Where Heym saw Berlin in terms of an impending catastrophoj Grass records the aftermaths

Ich grusse Berlin,, indem ich dreimal meine Stirn an eine der Brandmauern dreimal schlage.

52.Grass^G.Beritten hin und zuruck. In;Akzente.Zeitschrift fur Dichl^.unq,.^ Carl Manser Uerlag.r'lunchen. 5. 3ahrgang.1958.1^1399-409 53.Grass,G.Brandmsuern. Gd.P.7

54 c Grass,G ^GleisdrBieck.Gd.P,11

55.Grass,G.Die qrosse Trummerfrau spricht. Gd.Pp,97-101

56.Miller.K.Die Ounost-Berlinntr. IniHeidclberger Zeitung.Ouly 1911, Quoted in; Schneider,,K.LtZBrbrocri3nG Formen.Wort und Bild im EXf)rsssinnismus, Hoffman and Gainpe Uerlag. Hamburg 1957 Xh£illl:/.l-i-ind Tendenzen der expressionistischen Lyrik.

AnntRrkunnan zum AntitraTjitionalismus bei den nichtern des

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p.34 (lakellus ausgesagte,

wirft sie den Schatten dorthin, uo fruhar dein Grundstuck stand.

The auareness of living in a divided Berlin informs many poems in the collection of verse entitled Glej sdreieck which appeared in the autumn of 19G0. 'Gleisdreieck' is the name of a railway station not fer from the border-line between the Elast and West sectors. The word also contains the notion of a meeting-point where the lines of

international commerce and politics converge. And opposite the title poem a huge spider watches over the lines in one of the graphic

illustrations which serve as a complement to the poems. The meeting of railway lines, houever, is not seen as a point of reconciliation between East and West, but as a grotesque iron net which catches flies but allows the washerwomen of Berlin to cross the lines:

Die Putzfraun Ziehen von Ost nach Westc II I\Iein r'iann, bleib hier, was willst du druben; komm ruber Mann, was wills.t du hier.

Gleisdreieck, wo mit heisser Drusa die Spinne, die die Gleise legt,

58 sich blohnung nahm und Gleise legt.

The use of the first person plural ~ 'wir' ~ (the pronoun refers back to the initial conversation between the washerwomen and their husbands and forward to the poet and his friends counting the lines on their fingers) contrasts with the impersonal voice of the loudspeaker in the final stanza:

Wir starren glaubig in die Druse und l e s e n , was die Druse schreibt: Gleisdreieck, Sie verlassen sogleich

59 Gleisdreiack und den Westsektcr.

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P»35

Berlin is seen through the eyes of a woman in another iongor poem froiri Gleisdreieck 5 Die qrosse Trutnmerfrau spricht.Once more tne city is seen as a focal point of historical interaction:

Die Stadt die Stadt

Hingsstreut liegt Berlin, lehnt sich

mit DrandniauBrn gegen Winde^ die aus Ost Sud West, aus dem Norden kommen und die Stadt bofreien uollen.^'^

The effects of destruction are described but ttie appeal is to reconstruction:

Gnade Gnade

Die grosse Trummerfrau hat einen Plan enturorfen,

6 i dem jeder Stein unterliegen wird»

Yet the 'Trummerfrau' feels herself estranged in a divided city and recalls Berlin in its hey-day during the thirtiesj

Wo wo wo wo

Kind die alten Galane geblieben. ujo wilhelminischer Tiortel? ^^

or indulges in anarchistic urges in the face of a modernised city; Sonderbar scnderbar

sehen dann Neubauten aus, zittern ein wenig^ er-warten

den klassisch zu nennenden Schlag mit der Handkante in die Kniakehle.^^

The di.vision of Berlin a

nd the partition of Germany itself find expression in the duplication or four-fold repetitions of a word in the opening line of each stanza.

(40)

p.3G

The perspective change as the 'Trummerfrau' commissions the poet with the dual task of dastructicn and reconstruction and inuites him to woo her laughter with a serious mind. The poem closes with a hope that Berlin will rise from its ashes and that the words of the 'Trummerfrau' will not be forgotten:

Amen Amen.

Hingestreut liegt Berlin. Staub fliegt auf, . dann wieder Flaute.

Die grosse Trummerfrau wird heiliggesprochen.

These three poems were Ufritten before the erection of the Berlin Wall and Grass's concern with walls has not abated since. In a later piece the Wall is not an object easily brought to its knees

'mit der Handkants in die Kniekshle* - but a political and historical fait accomplij

Im sechsundsBchzigsten Dahr

tobte im Kies, zu Fussen der nauer: ein unudderrufener Befehl,

bewegter Protest, ledige Wut:

zwei Elidechsenschwcinze.

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p. 36b

The hens and chickens which populate tha author's farm-yard in Die Vorzuqe der liiindhuhner become objects of somewhat more culinary significance in his later poems. Theodor Wiessr has noted:

Bei Grass beheri-schen Huhner und Hahne, also sehr erdgebundene Uogel die ornithologische Szene.,,Huhner haben zudem ihren alltaglichen Nutzen, kommen der Kuche zugute»,e ^^

The vocabulary of the kitchen provides Grass with a stream of words and images in Die Schweinekopfsulze where with obvious delectation the

poet enumerates the ingredients of his favocite recipeeKoche und Loffel^^ contains an element of allegory as the figure of the cook serves to

remind the reader of a past recipe of quite a different sort;

Und manche sagentKoch ist Kach» Neu,frischgewaschen und gestS-irktj im Schneefall und vor hellor Wand bleibsn die Koche unbemerkt, und nur der Loffel in der Hand

I ! II

ruhrt unsp lasst niemanden uergessen: Die KuchR geben uns zu essen.^^

The cooks point an accusing finger at the reader in tha form of a resi.lesu Bpoon that is unable to accommodate itself in the drawer amongst the other spoonss

So lernst du langsam Loffel unterscheidenj kannst dich nicht mehr in Schubladen vermeidenj, du loffelst mit und lasst dich gern vertauschen, du gibst dich blechern, gleichst dich an5

horst dsinen Nachbarnf wolltest gar nicht lauschsnf doch Loffel liegt dem Loffel ame''^

65, L'liecor, Tr Gi'jntGr Grass»Portrat und Poesi8„ Luchterhand. Neuwied und Berlin. 1967. Pp.22^23.

67. Grassj, G„ Die Schweinekopfsulze, Ag„ Pp864-68 , 66. Grass, G. Koche und Loffel. Gd„ Pp.89-90. 69« Grass, Go Koche und. 1-o.ff elo Gd,

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p.37

From time to time mythological baings find their way into Grass's pirivate world. The lyricist is attracted by figures from .ludaic and Greek myth who provide him with a number of allegorical masks which allow him to express significant moments of his imaginative life. Biblical personages are often alluded to in several poems where Grass is indirectly taking to task his contemporaries for crimes past and present. Figures from the Old Testament such as Doshua and Nehemiah

71 72

are represented in Advent and Per Neubau respectively. In one poem

II YS from the bJindhuhner collection entitled Blechmusik Doshua's trumpet

reappears to sound the signal of war to the young men of Germany in 1939. And in the two^act play Hochwasser opisode of Noah and the Flood is transposed into the surroundings of a suburban household in the 195D'So

Greek mythology figures in Grass's work in a number of lyrical episodes which attempt to depict the poet's inner life through the medium of classical personages such as Diana, GrpheuSf Narcissus and Saturn^ These beings bscomo partners in a dialogue Diana oder dig

ant 76

Gegenstandel^ mouthpieces for an inner state Narziss'^^ or represontatives of the supernatural who threaten the poet's inner freedom Saturn»

In one amusing piece an old myth is reinterpreted. Instead of the Greek singer Orpheus who once charmed the birds and beasts with his lyre, a modern anarchist turns up at a somewhat boring musical evening to throw the whole performance into turmoil.

71. GrasSjG« Advent.. Ag. Pp.22-24 72. GrassjG. Per Neubau, Ag. P.82 73. Grass.G. Blechmusik. I'W, Pp.61-62

73a,GrasSjCc Hochwasser, InjGrasSjG^ Theaterspiele.Luchterhand.Neuwied n r r j " , und Berlin.1970 U u GrasSjGe Oiaj-ja oder nie benenstandg „ n en

G d r Pp. 73.-74" 75. Grass5G. Narziss. Cd. P«B1

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P-38 Weil ich mich damals zum Pub.likum zahlte,

nahrii ich Platz in der siebzehnten Reiha, So, die H^nde uberm Programm,

hiGlt ich es aus bis kurz nach der Pause:

den Kapellmeister strich ich durch,

dem Klauier ins Gebiss, der Flote ein Auge

ueq und das Blech aefullt,- womit denn? - mit Blei.

n ^ 77 Es gait, die Halfte aller Instrumente zu enthaaren.

Such aggression prouokes an immediate reaction from the ushers in the concert hall who take part in the ceremony of destruction by throwing uiolins, remnants of dresses and musical scores at tlie intruder who escapes by passing into the low-necked dress of a harpist and thus succeeds in making dissonance out of euphony:

So ging ich in ihrs Saiten ein, uerstehe mich nur noch auf Finger:

Wohlklang, ich uberhore mich, hute mich,

IS

nach ihrem Programm zu uerlangen

The speaker of the poem is able to rediscoyer the Orphic lyre in the strings of the harpist. He is careful, however, net to request a musical programme from i-.er - he indicates that he will be quite good at improvis-ation,

A four-stanza poem from Gleisdreieck is a self-characterisation in which the figure of the solipsistic god Narcissus becomes the vehicle of simple life-affirmation, Narziss is an inventory of minor details of human existence. Capricious aspects of reality are preferred to more substantial ones, a single finger appears more significant than all the rest or blood seems less important than the sawdust hand of a doll. Grass's Narcissus would rather cook lentils than be conccrned about

personal authenticity, refuses the offer of a poor relative to trade-in

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p.39 his birth-right srid cooks lentils for him out of shssr- generosity. The final stanza depicts Narcissus in all his self-sufficiency:

Uerliebt, ja das bin ich,

kaufte mir Schuhe mit narbigen Sohlen, lauf durch den Schnee:

gutmutig bin ich, leichtfertig bin ich, uogelfrei bin ich, verliebt, ja das bin ich in meine Spuren im Schnee.

A less idyllic picture of middle-class existence is provided in a

semi-narratiue piece which begins on a note of foreboding and ends with a grotesque iniage of doom: Saturn.

In diesem grossen Haus -uon den Ratten,

die um den Abfluss uissen, bis zu den Tauben

die nichts

wissen-wohne ich und ahne uieles.

The mood of apprehension is carried over into the stanzas that foilou. By deletion of personal pronouns at the beginning of each stanza the poat is able to communicate an absence of consciousness, a lack of insight into the everyday actions uihich go to make up the process of living. Arriving home late the speaker only realises the existence of his

house-key in the action of looking for it. Only in the eating of a chicken does he perceive that the bird is cold and dead. As he bends down to take off his shoes he suddenly appreciates the significance of this:

Buckte mich dann, zog beide Schuhe aus

und merkte beim Schuhausziehen, dass wir uns bucken rnussen, wenn wir die Schuhe

(45)

p.40 IT ^^

auszienen uioliari.

Lying on his bed the 'I' of the poem is aware of a hand in the dark which catches the ash from his cigarette and in the final stanza the feeling of apprehension latent throughout is externalised in the figure of Saturn who once devoured his oun disobedient children and uiho is associated with melancholy and despair:

Nachts kommt Saturn und h^lt seine Hand auf. Hit meiner Asche

putzt seine Zahne Saturn. In seinen Rachen

werden uir steigen.

The domestic scene provides a framework for the collection of lyrical happenings entitled Gleisdreieck. The household environment is seen here as a reflection of the universe. Political and social events are intimately connected with family life. A recurrent theme of this poetry is the sudden and apparently inexplicable intrusion of fear into

g3

the world of the author. In one earlier poem entitled Tierschutz the reader encounters what is tantamount to a Kafkaesque experience. The configurating circumstances of the poem remain unclear, Who is being addressed here? Is a child being spoken to by its father? Or is the reader himself being admonished for his cruelty to animals? The poet begins with an exhortation:

Das Klavier in den Zoo,

Schnell, bringt das Zebra in die gute Stube.^'^

He requests friendly feelings from the reader:

Seid freundlich mit ihm ^

For this magic creature comes from an ambiguous land ~ not only from the

Figure

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References

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