At Home, 28 December 2017
Several days ago I started reading Guenter Grass’ From Germany to Germany, Diary 1990. It was a Christmas present. I’m not particularly into fiction, so I was only vaguely aware of Grass; enough to know that he is an important German author, but not much more than that. Of course, 1990 was an important time in Germany, given that the Wall came down in 1989 – and I remember that very well. Grass was politically active, and very highly respected by the Germans, both East and West, as far as I can tell from the book. He flits here and there, from one reading event to another political gathering; and it’s fascinating. I do wonder, however, why I find it fascinating…..I’ve read a few diaries from political figures (Alastair Campbell, Chris Mullins, Alan Clarke, Chips Channon), and Golo Mann’s History of Germany, so this Grass volume resonates a bit. He was also an artist, and some of his sketches are also in the book. So far I’ve reached page 100.
At Home, 29 December 2017
Herr Grass is very worried about climate change. More and intense storms than usual lash the Continent, spring is early, and the summer very hot. His eyes are burning (old age?), and Iraq has invaded Kuwait. Also, German reunification rushes headlong, in a manner likely to leave the GDR bankrupt and beholden to the West Germans (who will be the overlords) – Guenter isn’t happy, and despises Kohl’s urgent opportunism and bypassing of the constitution. I remember at the time, there was concern for what reunification would bring for the rest of Europe……a strong Germany at the centre, with Poland again squeezed by its powerful neighbours – the rest of Europe recognising that reunification was inevitable (especially morally), and wondering if the existence of the EC could prevent political and economic catastrophe; so far, yes, but what happens when the UK leaves?
At Home, 30 December 2017
He likes his complicated family and his food, gardening and drawing (in pencil and charcoal). I’ve finished reading the book. At the end, Guenter reviews the year just past (in terms of political events, and his work achievements), and plans out his work year to come. Medium term planning, I guess: but it includes two new novels – The Call of the Toad, which he has been outlining all year, and a second, new, piece of work based on Fontane. By the end of the year (1990), a start has just about been made on the first….and the second will take five years to write (including the research). This is the professional writer at work – planning novels over a period of years; sketching plots and characters, and perspectives, and required research. Gulp. Fascinating – and the book ended with a sketch of a toad. Peeling onions next?