A customary procedure in the rewarding of the Nobel Prize is a short interview regarding the work and life of the recipient. Such is the case of this entry. Grass’ short interview with the Nobel commission in 1999 is short, but endearing to the editor. (Primarily because, like one of the interviewers in this article, the editor is a graduate student studying Günter Grass’ work.) Nevertheless, Grass fields a number of questions regarding his work.
Grass primarily discusses his love of Camus, particularly The Myth of Sisyphus; discusses his childhood in the Free City of Danzig (now modern-day Gdansk); as well as his then-most recent novel, Too Far Afield, an exploration of the issues of modern Germany (including reuinification) from the framework of the novels of the 19th century German writer, Theodore Fontane, author of Effi Briest, among other works. Grass, in other interviews, would consider Too Far Afield to be one of his favorite novels of his own.
Interestingly, the country Grass is representing in his victory is not his hostland of Germany, but “The Free City of Danzig,” Grass’ hometown which no longer exists as an independent state. Further, the award signifies that Grass’ work is rewarded for revealing “the forgotten face of history.” His move by the Nobel committee is important as far as Grass studies is concerned inasmuch as it reminds scholars, fans, and critics that Grass adopts Germany as a response to his dispersal at the end of World War II. Grass is not ethnically German, but Kashubian, an ethnic group whose homeland was situated in northern Poland, near Germany and Russia. Grass’ work, particularly The Tin Drum (Die Blechtrommel) and Crabwalk (Ims Krebgang) deal extensively with Grass’ relationship to his Kashubian heritage.