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My Century by Günter Grass

My Century (1999)

by Günter Grass

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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
This is a book about the individual in and through time. It is a staggering technical achievement. Each year is represented as a beautiful Flash piece, with an authentic voice, layered themes, a pertinent subject (such as technology, social events, politics, sport) and a strong story. The cumulative impact of the approach is to demonstrate time both from the perspective of the situated individual and the omniscient god simultaneously. As time passes, the nature of this book changes. Reading it will differ depending on when it is read and on when the reader was born. An extraordinary work of art. ( )
  freelancer_frank | Apr 17, 2012 |
The proper time to read this would have been in 1999. Still, even now that all the excitement of "Y2K" is long behind us, this is an interesting exercise. A hundred very short stories, all between about 750 and 1000 words, one for each year of the 20th century (except that he includes 1900 and misses out 2000, but he's a writer and artist, not a mathematician...). The stories are all in the first person: in five or six of them the narrator seems to be Grass himself, the rest are told by witnesses, famous or obscure, to the great and small events of German history. There are some very clever and unexpected viewpoints — the account of the first world war through a series of linked stories describing an imaginary meeting between Erich Maria Remarque and Ernst Jünger in Zürich, for instance, or the self-mocking account of the publication of Die Blechtrommel and Billard um Halbzehn in 1959 as though they were industrial products of the Wirtschaftswunder — but also some rather predictable ones, like the description of rubble-clearing by a "Berliner Trümmerfrau". I lost interest a bit in the sixties, where there is a whole string of stories involving Celan and Heidegger; the nineties, too are a bit of a dull stretch. There's not that much that Grass can say about reunification, the Gulf War, nuclear energy or pollution damage to trees that he hasn't already said many times elsewhere... The last story, though it also rehashes rather familiar material, is an effective way to end the collection. ( )
1 vote thorold | Nov 11, 2011 |
the book is a collection of short stories that are really essays each story highlights a year, from 1900 to 1999. the stories show how history in this case german history has a direct effect on people. ( )
  michaelbartley | Sep 11, 2011 |
This book was not meant for me. Stories about/in all the years from 1900 untill 1999. But they are quite boring. And I miss the clues. Maybe because they are located in Germany. Although it's a neighbouring country, the history is too different to understand all.

http://boekenwijs.blogspot.com/2010/03/mijn-eeuw.html ( )
  boekenwijs | Mar 24, 2010 |
My Century is the history of the 20th century told by Günter Grass. One hundred little stories, one for each year of the century. The point of view is often that of a German individual: the author's relatives, the author himself and various other writers, his and others' fictional characters have their say as well as many many unnamed citizen from very different social classes and backgrounds.

I can understand--though I have only read one other book by Grass--that this is not considered as one his best works. But it is still a good read. This is history through German eyes, but it is still universal and generally human enough to be interesting to anyone. Whatever really important happened during that century is there, and only few times it happened that a story left me cold, not knowing anything about the subject of the story in question.

But, there is a but... Like said by the author's mother (dead by then) in the last 'year' of the book: "...now I should tell you all what it was like in the old days and even before that. And what else would it have been but war, war all over and then again with just a little break in between." It truly was. The first half of the century was like preparation for the big one and then the next thirty or so years were spent trying to recover from it all; trying to figure out what on earth happened and what should we do about it. And that is a good question any time. ( )
  eairo | Sep 3, 2009 |
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» Add other authors (23 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Günter Grassprimary authorall editionscalculated
Estelrich, PilarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gielkens, JanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In memory of Jakob Suhl
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Ich, ausgetauscht gegen mich, bin Jahr für Jahr dabeigewesen. Nicht immer in vorderster Linie, denn da alleweil Krieg war, zog sich unsereins gerne in die Etappe zurück. Anfangs jedoch, als es gegen die Chinesen ging und unser Bataillon in Bremerhaven aufmarschierte, stand ich zuvorderst im mittleren Block. Freiwillig waren fast alle, aber aus Straubing hatte einzig ich mich gemeldet, obgleich seit kurzem mit Resi, meiner Therese, verlobt.
Sono stato presente ogni anno, dando il cambio a me stesso.
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Während wir bereits im Bewusstsein der kommenden, mauerlosen Zeit lebten und - kaum zu Hause angekommen - die Glotze in Gang setzten, dauerte es andererseits der Mauer noch ein Weilchen, bis endlich der Bekannte meines Bekannten die paar Schritte übers frischverlegte Parkett machte und den Ton des Fernsehers voll aufdrehte. Ab dann kein Wort mehr über Winterreifen. Dieses Problem mochte die neue Zeitrechnung, das "richtige Geld" lösen. Nur noch den restlichen Korn gekippt, dann weg und hin zur Invalidenstraße, wo sich bereits die AUtos - mehr Trabant als Wartburg - stauten, denn alle wollten zum Grenzübergang hin, der wunderbar offenstand.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0156011417, Paperback)

Perhaps it's fitting that the 1999 winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, Günter Grass, should be the one to see the old millennium out in style. His My Century is comprised of 100 short chapters, one for each year of the 20th century, each told by a different narrator. And of course, since Grass is German, the century he refers to is German as well--a fact that could prove a little daunting to readers not familiar with the intricacies of that country's history. "1900," for example, throws us smack in the middle of the Chinese Boxer Rebellion from a German soldier's point of view. "1903" jumps us into the head of a young student who, clad in a new boater, admires the first Zeppelin, buys a copy of Thomas Mann's latest book, Buddenbrooks, and attends the launching of the world's largest ship, Imperator, among other historical events. "1904" is concerned with a miners' strike and "1906" is all about German-Moroccan foreign relations.

Yet as year succumbs to year and one narrative voice piles on top of the next, My Century becomes more than the sum of its parts. And Grass always manages to surprise. The chapters "1914" through "1918," for example, rather than being narrated by the usual suspects--young soldiers in the trenches, worried mothers at home, embittered war widows or shell-shocked veterans--are relayed by a '60s-era young woman who brings two great German chroniclers of the war together. As the now-elderly Erich Maria Remarque (All Quiet on the Western Front) and Ernst Jünger (On the Marble Cliffs) meet and spar over the course of several meals, their reminiscences of the Great War present two radically different views. Jünger, for example, says: "I can state without compunction: As the years went by, the flame of the prolonged battle produced an increasingly pure and valiant warrior caste..." Remarque's response is to laugh in Jünger's face:

Come on, Jünger! You sound like a country squire. Cannon fodder quaking in oversized boots--that's what they were. Animals. All right, maybe they were beyond fear, but death never left their minds. So what could they do? Play cards, curse, fantasize about spread-eagled women, and wage war--murder on command, that is. Which took some expertise. They discussed the advantages of the shovel over the bayonet: the shovel not only let you thrust below the chin; it gave you a good solid blow, on the diagonal, say, between neck and shoulder, which then cut right down to the chest, while the bayonet tended to get caught between the ribs and you had to go all the way up to the stomach to pull it loose.
It may be Remarque and Jünger talking, but the prose is pure Grass. The years leading up to and including World War II are narrated by a variety of voices: a communist in a forced-labor camp in 1936; a schoolboy "playing" Spanish Civil War with his classmates in 1937. The events of Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938, become inextricably linked with the November 9, 1989, fall of the Berlin Wall, as a German schoolteacher gets in trouble with the Parent-Teacher Association for his "obsession with the past." Indeed, it is the way Grass mixes past and present, the voices of the famous and the ordinary, that lends such power to My Century; and by the time he brings the reader up to the last weird and wonderful chapter, his century has become ours as well. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:30 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

One hundred stories, each named after a year this century. In one, Erich Maria Remarque gives his views on World War I, in another former Nazis reflect on the good old days, while a third is on the fall of the Berlin Wall from a dead woman's point of view.… (more)

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