Voice of German moral conscience no more

RSTV Bureau

gunter_grass400Günter Grass, the German novelist, social critic and Nobel Prize winner whom many called his country’s moral conscience died in a hospital in Lubeck on Monday. He was 87. Grass had stunned Europe when he revealed in 2006 that he had been a member of the Waffen-SS during World War II.

Offering his condolences, German president Joachim Gauck said of him “Günter Grass moved, enthralled, and made the people of our country think with his literature and his art. His literary work won him recognition early across the world, as witnessed not least by his Nobel prize”.

“His novels, short stories, and his poetry reflect the great hopes and fallacies, the fears and desires of whole generations,” President Gauck’s statement further read.

Social network sites were abuzz with rich tributes minutes after an announcement was made of Grass’s demise.

Tweeting from UK, writer Salman Rushdie said “This is very sad. A true giant, inspiration, and friend. Drum for him, little Oskar”.

A pre-eminent public figure in Germany Mr. Grass had pushed his countrymen to confront the dark and war-torn aspects of their history. His 1959 work “The Tin Drum” is considered as a wildly inventive masterpiece. It propelled his work to the forefront of postwar literature.

In 1999, while honouring him with the Nobel, the Swedish Academy praised him for embracing “the enormous task of reviewing contemporary history by recalling the disavowed and the forgotten: the victims, losers and lies that people wanted to forget because they had once believed in them.”

Although Mr. Grass was a playwright, essayist, short-story writer, poet, sculptor and printmaker as well as a novelist, it was his role as a social critic that brought him distinct.

The revelation of his Nazi past led to flutters in the social circles. However, Mr. Grass referred himself as one of many German youths pressed to serve SS but in relatively innocent jobs like guarding anti-aircraft batteries.

For much of his career, he campaigned for disarmament and social change.