Posted in Literature

Gunter Grass: Crabwalk – walking sideways into a story

Gunter Grass, author, Nobel prize winner was not someone on my to-read list.
But I was on holiday in a rented cottage and need something to read. Someone had left a copy of Crabwalk.

His fictional story revolves around the actual sinking of a ship, the Wilhelm Gustloff, sunk in 1945 with the loss of over nine-thousand lives. The worst single ship loss in history. Grass somehow tells the single story from the perspective of three people who only come together at the time of the tragedy: the person after whom the ship is named, the captain of the submarine that sinks it, and one other. Moreover, somehow Grass manages to update each one of the three stories, at the same time, often in a single sentence. 

As a story, as a historical record, as a tour-de-force of literary skill, it is worth the time spent reading it. A masterpiece.  And the title: it is because Grass explains, rather than telling the story chronologically, he walks you sideways into it, like a crab.