The Tin Drum

I have unintentionally avoided Grass’ work for decades, until a lunchtime reading of the new translation of The Tin Drum raised interest for me. Oskar decides to stop growing at age 3 and focus on his tin drum, instead of growing up to manage his father’s grocery. He cranks through drums at a rapid rate after he stages a fall down the cellar stairs which gives a plausible excuse for non-growth.
Favorite scene: The Onion Cellar, a nightclub in Düsseldorf where Oskar and his jazz band play when the crowd gets too rowdy; the owner hands out onions that the audience cuts and weeps over. The only way they are able to cry now. One night they get out of control, Oskar leads them on a drum solo through their childhoods, which in turn nets him a concert deal.
* Sütterlin script is the name of the German Gothic script that all German books seem printed in
* Frequently switches between 1st and 3rd person narration, even in the same paragraph.
* His grandmother’s 4 layers of skirts providing refuge to his grandfather in the potato fields, then Oskar in his own time.
* Oskar teaches himself to read after stealing bits of Rasputin & Goethe from a kindly lady who reads to him.
* Oskar has a glass-shattering voice that he wields in Danzig towards the end of WWII along with a gang of youths called the Dusters.
* Bebra is a midget employed by the SS office for propaganda, he becomes Oskar’s mentor/master. They meet up several times through Oskar’s life.
* “What novel – or what else in the world – can have the epic scope of a photograph album?”
* “I’m just a man taking a walk with this dog I borrowed to take a walk with.”
* “Barbaric, mystical, and bored.” … “You have given our century its name.”
* When Oskar is part of the freak troupe entertaining the German army, they have an encounter with Lankes, an artist whose wartime duty is to make concrete bunkers. The troupe writes this poem, On the Atlantic Wall, with the line “the trend is toward the bourgeois-smug.”
* German title: Die Blechtrommel


auth=Grass, Günter
pub=1959
sub=translated by Ralph Manheim