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I can count on one hand the number of novels that left an indelible mark on my mind--literature that painted pictures so vividly that the imagery stays clearly with me years after I read the book. "The Tin Drum" by Gunter Grass is one of a handful of novels that I will never forget. Grass is an amazingly talented author. His prose is lyrical, even translated from German. To mark the 50th anniversary of the book, "The Tin Drum" was painstakingly re-translated (with a great deal of input by Grass himself) by Breon Mitchell, who made great efforts to preserve the poetic nature of Grass' prose. Earlier editions merely translated the meanings of his German words into English. This translation retains the beautiful richness and rhythm of his words. There is a very interesting chapter in the back of the book that discusses this process. If you purchase the novel, I highly recommend you get a copy with the newer translation. "The Tin Drum" is political, satirical, dark, moving, hilarious and thought provoking. There are elements of magical realism and historical fiction. I recently watched the 1979 award-winning film adaptation of this book. It is a good film, but far inferior to the novel. There is so much in this book that the movie can barely skim the surface. The casting was brilliant and the acting was great. The film touched on several of the highlights of Oskar's life, but so many of my favorite parts of the book were missing. Watching this film and thinking you know the story of "The Tin Drum" is like going to Epcot and saying you've been to Europe. ***SPOILERS FOLLOW*** Several of the most memorable scenes in the book are also in the film. But the imagery that Grass paints with his words is far more powerful than watching these somewhat shocking events play out on film. A pivotal moment in both the book and the film is when one of the major characters dies. This corresponds with the Soviet occupation of Poland. All of the details in the book are there, including Oskar's contribution to this person's death and the role of a Nazi party pin. But in the book, as the corpse lies on the cellar floor and the family scurries in panic around him, Oskar is transfixed by a trail of ants marching around the body and into a bag of sugar. With that one small detail, Grass speaks to the futility of war and the insignificance of man in the scope of the world. The addition of this one small detail makes a powerful and moving scene all the more powerful and moving. This is just one example of why the book is so superior to the film. If you love thought-provoking, exquisitely written literature, do not miss out on this fabulous book.
It pains me to say that the great German author, Günter Grass, 1999 Nobel Prize winner for Literature and author of "The Tin Drum," has passed away at age 87. "Renowned German Author Günter Grass Dies, Age 87" on dw.de (Deutsche Welle) "Günter Grass, Nobel-Winning German Novelist, Dies Age 87" on theguardian.com "Günter Grass, Who Confronted Germany's Past As Well As His Own, Dies At 87" on npr.org "Günter Grass, Nobel Prize Winner, Dies Age 87" on telegraph.co.uk "Günter Grass, German Novelist and Social Critic, Dies at 87" on nytimes.com Last year, we lost Gabriel Garcia Marquez; this year, we lost Günter Grass. Like Marquez's "100 Years of Solitude," Grass's "The TIn Drum" is one of the most important works of contemporary literature I've ever read. A giant has left us today. Please share your thoughts and feelings about this great German author - this has hit me pretty hard, and I'd love to see some discussion of his life's work. "The Tin Drum" (1959) is one of those literary works which you'll most likely find more rewarding to read before seeing the film (1979), although the film is excellent, having won a Palme D'Or and an Academy Award.