Peeling the Onion
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In this extraordinary memoir, Nobel Prize–winning author Günter Grass remembers his early life, from his boyhood in a cramped two-room apartment in Danzig through the late 1950s, when The Tin Drum was published.
During the Second World War, Grass volunteered for the submarine corps at the age of fifteen but was rejected; two years later, in 1944, he was instead drafted into the Waffen-SS. Taken prisoner by American forces as he was recovering from shrapnel wounds, he spent the final weeks of the war in an American POW camp. After the war, Grass resolved to become an artist and moved with his first wife to Paris, where he began to write the novel that would make him famous.
Full of the bravado of youth, the rubble of postwar Germany, the thrill of wild love affairs, and the exhilaration of Paris in the early fifties, Peeling the Onion—which caused great controversy when it was published in Germany—reveals Grass at his most intimate.
Grenzheim shell-lime, a stone of insidiously varying density. When, after quite a few standing girls in modeling clay, I added a reclining woman with gaping thighs, Mages took offense at the exposed vagina and the—to his mind—vulgar pose, which ran counter to a "plain, closed form." He strongly urged me to close the thighs. When the pupil refused to honor the professor's sense of decency and form, it came to a showdown. "Nothing like this ever happens under my supervision," the professor said.
female students of the Gudrun School (the former Hclcne Lange School), which had been requisitioned. We attended classes in morning and afternoon shifts. She was the oncoming traffic on Uphagenweg: she came, I went. That is, I was on my way home from five hours of lessons; she had the same number of hours yet to sit through. She was always with a bunch of girls, while I, the notorious loner, was on my own. I would walk straight through the bevy of gigglers, risking no more than a glance at her.
The Kaiserhafen battery became our second home. To the east the flats leading down to the Vistula; to the west the loading cranes, the grain silos, and the far-off towers of the city. At first there were attempts to keep school going, but as classes were too often interrupted by field exercises, the mostly frail, elderly teachers refused to travel the wearisome dirt road to our battery. Finally we were taken seriously. Six artillery weapons had to be aimed at their target. We had had the
into the army and writes letters to his cousin Tulla from his Training camp at Fallingbostcl, letters riddled with quotations from the nationalist poet Lons, and how later, no marter where his travel orders rake him—from the Luneburg Headi all the way to the retreating eastern front—he tries, and fails, to find a rhyme for Tulla in the letters. "I haven't seen a Russian yet. Sometimes I stop thinking of Tulla. Our field kirchen is gone. I keep reading the same thing. The streets are clogged wirh
the "Amis" by then—"against the Ivans. They need us too. They won't get anywhere without us .. ." Lots of men agreed with him. Things would start up again with the Russians—it was as clear as day. They should have figured it out before the Ivans marched into Poland, but it took them until now, when Adolf's out of the picture and also the other bigwigs, Goebbels and Himmler and so on, or under lock and key like Goring. "Right. Our experience at the front as bulwark against the Red Tide. We know