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Cat and Mouse by Günter Grass
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Cat and Mouse

by Günter Grass

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Danzig Trilogy (2)

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1,707176,518 (3.42)58
The setting is Danzig during World War II. The narrator recalls a boyhood scene in which a black cat pounces on his friend Mahlke’s “mouse”-his prominent Adam’s apple. This incident sets off a wild series of events that ultimately leads to Mahlke’s becoming a national hero. Translated by Ralph Manheim. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book… (more)
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» See also 58 mentions

English (13)  German (2)  Dutch (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (17)
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
Read for 1001, BOTM October 2019. This is the second book in the Danzig Trilogy but other than a couple of cameo appearance of the little drummer, it is not necessary to have read The Tin Drum first in my opinion. I enjoyed this one so much more than the first book. The story is about The Great Mahlke as he is eventually labeled by his adolescent peer. Mahlke is an awkward youth with an enormously large Adam's apple. The story opens with the description of a cat pouncing on Mahlke's Adam apple. The story is told by an unreliable, unnamed narrator, until the 8th chapter when we finally are given the name Pilenz. The boys spend their days swimming out to a sunken boat and sit on the ships bridge which rises a little above water and represents the destructiveness of war. The title, Cat and Mouse, can be taken as a metaphor of war, society, and victim or it can be a description of the relationship of our narrator (the observer) and Mahlke the performer. Is Pilenz the cat who stalks Mahlke, the mouse. Is Pilenz writing a confession or is this a game of Cat and Mouse?

The story is a coming of age story of adolescent boys at a time where they are facing war after they are no longer school boys. There is some crudity and sexual themes but then, isn't adolescent boys full of crudity and sexual talk? A story of boyhood and adolescence in WWII Danzig.

Symbols and motifs abound. The Adam's apple and the objects that are hung around his neck; screwdriver, virgin Mary necklace, pom poms, mufflers, Iron Cross.

The atmosphere is one of impending crisis. The reader is drawn along, knowing no good will be the conclusion to the study of Mahlke by this Pilenz. ( )
1 vote Kristelh | Oct 13, 2019 |
Dead grass. I thought Grass' use of language rivaled Nabokov in sheer enjoyment of reading, but the story here wandered and was a little pointless. I was assigned this in a German film class, and enjoyed the film version of "The Tin Drum" much more. ( )
  Charles_Tatum | Oct 10, 2019 |
No valid German National Library records retrieved.
  glsottawa | Apr 4, 2018 |
If this book had been published in our modern era, it would have been released as a YA title, since it is set in an elite high school, in German-occupied Poland during WW2. It shows a different side of the war, where the war is relatively far off, intruding into the lives of the boys in the story through sunken military vessels and worries about volunteering for military training and the constant possibility of losing a loved one who is off fighting. The story is tense, but the boys and their teachers are trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy despite the fact that the world outside their immediate area is far from normal and definitely unsafe. I was a bit annoyed at all the suspense Grass builds into the narrative, since most of it falls flat. The narrator keeps saying 'if only' as if the choices he made led to some terrible disaster, but when the story ends, the narrator doesn't seem at all upset about the terrible disaster. This inconsistency extends beyond the central 'conflict', and robs the story of its momentum. But as a literary novel this was a pretty good, and short book.
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1 vote JBarringer | Dec 30, 2017 |
I know, I know, I should have read The Tin Drum before this as that’s the first of the trilogy and this is the second book. But, charity store book beggars can’t be choosers.

Pilenz narrates the story of his adolescent relationship with Mahlke, a student who remains aloof throughout the entire narrative.Grass sets up Mahlke as a character who always seems to live outside the confines of society and its rules. Initially, you feel he is happy there. By the end, you’re not so sure.

Clearly, against a backdrop of Nazi occupied Poland, this is a statement, and both Pilenz and Mahlke are types that Grass uses to illustrate the social conflict of the day. It is significant that, in doing this, Mahlke’s life is never told from his own point of view but only that of the conforming Pilenz.

Much of the novel centres around a half sunken Polish minesweeper on a sandbank off the coast of WW2 Gdańsk which Pilenz and his classmates visit on a regular basis. Mahlke first earns his reputation as being a cut above the rest by diving longer than anyone else can to retrieve items from the sunken vessel. While Mahlke is in complete control of his environment there, his last visit leaves you in some doubt.

The Iron Cross features at two key points in the novel that have to do with Mahlke’s refusal to bow to authority he does not respect, first as a student and then again as a tank officer. While there are parallels between both episodes, the latter, which forms the close of the novel, is the more laden with imagery.

The novel is a complex one both in terms of its symbolic aspects and also its narrative. It’s not easy to follow, with the chronology not always in the order you expect. And because you never feel you can quite trust Pilenz as a narrator, you are never sure what to make of Mahlke. The ending leaves you hanging. It’s all very unsettling, and I’m sure that was Grass’s intention.

I’m not entirely sure I grasped all that Grass is doing in this novel, but I definitely came away having been impacted by some of its tremendous force. I’m now on the lookout for The Tin Drum, not least to walk the path Grass took to Cat and Mouse. ( )
  arukiyomi | Sep 11, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Günter Grassprimary authorall editionscalculated
Filippini, EnricoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Manger, HermienTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Manheim, RalphTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walldén, John W.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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...And one day, after Mahlke had learned to swim, we were lying in the grass, in the Schlagball field.
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