Scott Brown
April 18, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Crabwalk

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Gunter Grass
publisher
Harcourt
genre
Fiction

We gave it an A

In one of Crabwalk‘s more pungent passages, Günter Grass (Nobel-winning author of ”The Tin Drum”) compares the history of his native Germany to a backed-up toilet: Certain things, he explains, simply won’t go down. Thus his present-day narrator, sad-sack journalist Paul Pokriefke, is forced to ”crabwalk” across a stubbornly undead 20th century in an attempt to explain the link between his mother’s frighteningly adaptable nationalism, his son’s chillingly academic descent into right-wing fanaticism, and a forgotten nautical disaster — the 1945 torpedoing of the German refugee carrier Wilhelm Gustloff, which took 9,000 people to the bottom of the Baltic and remains the deadliest naval tragedy on record. ”Crabwalk” exhibits an almost Vonnegut-like vibe as it documents, with darkly funny paranoia, the ornery persistence of discarded, discredited narratives in the mass-media bitch session that is the information age.

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