Tuesday, May 29, 2007

How Grass spent the war

Gunter Grass provides us a poignantly-written peek into his Waffen S.S. days--something that also brought him great disrepute when he first talked about it in his biography. I enjoyed reading it and was touched by Grass' frankness at times:

The two-room hole. The family trap. Everything there conspired to constrain the weekend visitor. Not even the mother’s hand could smooth away the son’s distress. True, he was no longer expected to sleep in his parents’ bedroom like his sister, but even on the couch made up for him in the living room he remained a witness to the married life that continued unbroken from Saturday to Sunday. That is, I could hear—or thought I could hear—sounds I had heard, muffled as they were, from childhood on, sounds that had lodged in my mind in the form of a monstrous ritual: the anticipatory whispers, the lip-smacking, the creaking bedsprings, the sighing horsehair mattress, the moaning, the groaning, the entire aural repertory of lovemaking, so potent, especially in the dark. I had a clear picture of all the variations on marital coupling, and in my cinematic version of the act the mother was always the victim: she yielded, she gave the go-ahead, she held out to the point of exhaustion.

And here is a sublime realisation after a serious race-related episode:

I must say that I was, if not glad, then at least relieved when the boy disappeared. The storm of doubts about everything in which I’d had rock-solid faith died down, and the resulting calm in my head prevented any further thought from taking wing: mindlessness had filled the space. I was pleased with myself and sated. A self-portrait from that period would have shown me well nourished.

1 comment:

Obiter Dictum said...

One of the favorites, Grass.