The Rat

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1989 - Fiction - 384 pages
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In this superbly inventive, beautifully crafted novel, Gunter Grass relates, in dreamlike sequences, the end of this world and the beginning of an age of rats.

Grass received her as a gift one Christmas. She was sitting under the tree in her gift-wrapped cage, amid fleece-lined slippers, and hand-colored map, a handsome engraving. That's how the rat came into Grass's life and imagination. Dream alternates with reality in this story within a story within a story. Of Grass and his Christmas rat. Of a group of liberated women on a research ship in the Baltic Sea, complaining, lamenting, to the clatter of their knitting needles. Of our old friend the tin drummer, Oscar Matzerath, now sixty, balding, plagued by prostate troubles, and head of a major video corporation whose motto is: "We are creating the future." At his Grandmother Anna Koljaiczek's 107th birthday party, he shows a video of the re-greening of Germany carried out by characters from the pages of the Brothers Grimm - Rumpelstiltskin, The Frog King - and the Brothers Grimm themselves, now ministers of the environment in the Bonn government.

But the rat intrudes in all these stories with stories of her own, challenging our narrator in his dreams and in his realities, arguing with him, interrupting, threatening. He in turn fights to preserve the human present by elaborating on his memories of the past, as he conjures up visions of a terrifying future in apocalyptic images that make inspired reading.

Here Grass baroque, Grass sensuous, Grass the witty observer and interpreter of both the human and animal condition.


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The rat

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And the rats shall inherit the earth, or so Grass concludes in this wonderful work of speculative virtuosity. With no less a subject before him than the ultimate fate of humankind, this superb German ... Read full review

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Section 1
Section 2
Section 3
Section 4
Section 5
Section 6
Section 7
Section 8
Section 9
Section 10
Section 11
Section 12
Section 13
Section 14

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About the author (1989)

Gunter Grass (1927-2015), Germany's most celebrated contemporary writer, attained worldwide renown with the publication of his novel The Tin Drum in 1959. A man of remarkable versatility, Grass was a poet, playwright, social critic, graphic artist, and novelist. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1999.

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