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My Century (1999)

by Günter Grass

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1,0631116,228 (3.49)39
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.
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» See also 39 mentions

English (8)  Spanish (1)  Catalan (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (11)
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
This was a decent concept that was executed adequately, but overall it was hard to immerse oneself in this melange of memories, experiences, and transitions. There is one part per each year in this past century. There are ups and downs, exploits and famous happenings along with the seemingly mundane. Overall, a decent experience, just not one that fully connected- for me.

3 stars. ( )
  DanielSTJ | Feb 7, 2020 |

I had read both The Tin Drum and the autobiographical Peeling The Onion previously; My Century is different from both in that it is straight non-genre narrative, but telling short snapshots from every year from 1900 to 2000, mostly (though not all) with different protagonists. There are some odd choices - the second war is told in flashback by journalists reminising in the 1960s; the Holocaust is barely mentioned buring the war but intrudes on a Frankfurt wedding in 1964; reunification is recounted as experienced through election results. I think the reader is expected to be familiar with a lot of details of twentieth-century German history that a lot of people may not know so well.

But at the same time, if (against the author's expressed preference) you take the book as a sequence of 100 short stories with some internal links, rather than as a single novel, I think it works very well, with a lot of voices from various levels of society reminding us that a nation is made up of people,and so is its history. Some of the more memorable narrators are women - the actress early on, the Berlin survivor of 1946, the post-reunification Treuhand boss. It's not at the level of the other books by Grass that I have read, but I found it thought-provoking all the same. ( )
1 vote nwhyte | Dec 28, 2019 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Nichts hat Grass vergessen. Er betet die historischen Daten, die sich ins kollektive Gedächtnis der Deutschen eingegraben haben, so brav herunter, als stünde er zur Abfrage vorn an der Tafel. Das ideale Buch für den Elftklässer, der für die Geschichtsklausur büffelt. Ein literarischer Genuß aber entsteht bei der Lektüre nicht. Zu wenig Originelles, gar Spannendes hat Grass diesmal zu bieten.

» 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.
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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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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.

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Average: (3.49)
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