n Acta Germanica : German Studies in Africa - Die gehäutete Zwiebel oder Dichtung und Wahrheit bei Günter Grass

Volume 35, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0065-1273



The revelation in Günter Grass' book of memoirs, (Peeling the Onion), that he had served as a 17-year old in the Waffen-SS in the last months of World War II caused such a storm in the media worldwide that it dominated the debate sparked by the publication of the book in August and September 2006 to the virtual exclusion of any other considerations. And indeed, both the author's public utterances at the time and the attitude displayed in the book indicate that he was at pains to disguise perhaps more than he was prepared to admit about past guilt or complicity. This paper suggests that one way to approach is to read it as a meta-textual picaresque novel based on Grass' experiences in the period 1939-1959. Various literary devices employed to achieve this are examined, primarily the use of roles adopted from literary tradition, e.g. Grimmelshausen's or elements of 's biography. Thus reality and fiction, historical truth and subjective memory are juxtaposed to produce a constant tension and openness characteristic more of fictional than of historical discourse.

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