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!DOWNLOAD BOOK ♭ Crabwalk ♴ G nter Grass has been wrestling with Germany s past for decades now, but no book since The Tin Drum has generated as much excitement as this engrossing account of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff A German cruise ship turned refugee carrier, it was attacked by a Soviet submarine in JanuarySome , people went down in the Baltic Sea, making it the deadliest maritime disaster of all time Born to an unwed mother on a lifeboat the night of the attack, Paul Pokriefke is a middle aged journalist trying to piece together the tragic events While his mother sees her whole existence in terms of that calamitous moment, Paul wishes their life could have been less touched by the past For his teenage son, who dabbles in the dark, far right corners of the Internet, the Gustloff embodies the denial of Germany s wartime suffering Scuttling backward to move forward, Crabwalk is at once a captivating tale of a tragedy at sea and a fearless examination of the ways different generations of Germans now view their pastWinner of the Nobel Prize A crab goes forward by moving backward, or else from side to side and thus the narrative line of G nter Grass s 2002 novel Crabwalk Im Krebsgang constantly moves back and forth between the Internet age of the early 21st century and the still all but incomprehensible tragedy of the Second World War In the process, the reader gets a disturbing sense that in the modern, democratic Germany of the present day and in the democratic world generally forces of cruelty and intolerance still exist A crab goes forward by moving backward, or else from side to side and thus the narrative line of G nter Grass s 2002 novel Crabwalk Im Krebsgang constantly moves back and forth between the Internet age of the early 21st century and the still all but incomprehensible tragedy of the Second World War In the process, the reader gets a disturbing sense that in the modern, democratic Germany of the present day and in the democratic world generally forces of cruelty and intolerance still exist, not far below the surface.G nter Grass won the 1999 Nobel Prize for Literature for a body of work that looked critically at Germany s modern history He lived the history of which he later wrote he was drafted into the Waffen SS in 1944, and served until he was taken prisoner by U.S soldiers in 1945 He is probably best known for his 1959 novel The Tin Drum Die Blechtrommel , a work that mixed realistic and fantastical elements and Grass s novel gained evenattention when the 1979 film adaptation by director Volker Schlond rff won both the Palme d Or at Cannes and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film Crabwalk adopts arealistic, workaday setting than The Tin Drum, but is no less rigorous in the way it examines the contemporary German soul The narrator, Paul Pokriefke, is a reporter whose life is tied closely with the tragic history of what Germans call zweiter Weltkrieg, the Second World War The reason is that he was born in wartime, in 1945, aboard a ship called the Wilhelm Gustloff and while many people outside Germany have not heard of the Wilhelm Gustloff, it is a ship whose story is well known within Germany Briefly, then the Wilhelm Gustloff was a hospital ship turned military transport ship, built in 1937 and named for a Nazi who had assisted in Hitler s unsuccessful coup attempt against the democratic Weimar Republic in 1923 In January of 1945, the Soviet Army was advancing toward German territory, and many of its soldiers wanted to take full revenge for the 20 million Soviets killed by the Nazis East Prussia, that now gone German exclave east of Poland, was the first German territory that the Soviets would reach, and therefore the Gustloff was evacuating desperate civilian refugees as well as military personnel from East Prussia And on 30 January 1945, the severely overcrowded ship was torpedoed by the Soviet submarine S 13 and sank within an hour About 1,000 people were saved, but over 9,000 died making the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff the deadliest maritime disaster in history Paul, whose marriage ended in divorce, and whose relationship with his son Konrad is distant, accepts that the odd circumstances of his birth may not have made it possible for him, or for anyone close to him, to lead a normal or ordinary life As a journalist who has attended or watched ship christenings in democratic, postwar Germany, he sometimes thinks about the launching of the Wilhelm Gustloff at Hamburg on 5 May 1937, with Hitler present to see the ship formally christened by the real life Wilhelm Gustloff s widow Hedwig When the widow performed the christening a bit later with the words I christen you with the name Wilhelm Gustloff, the cheering of the strong nerved masses drowned out the sound of the champagne bottle being smashed against the bow of the ship Both the Horst Wessel and the Deutschland songs were sung as the new vessel glided down the slipway But whenever I, the survivor of the Gustloff , attend a launching as a reporter, or see one on television, an image steals into the picture that ship, christened and launched in the most beautiful May weather, sinking in the icy Baltic pp 52 53 And the narrator makes sure to note that at that same time in early May when the Wilhelm Gustloff was being launched at Hamburg, a Soviet naval officer named Aleksandr Marinesko was undergoing, possibly in Leningrad, the training that would eventually put him in command of the submarine S 13 that would find and sink the Wilhelm Gustloff on that fateful night in January of 1945.A diligent reporter who knows how to track down a story, Paul eventually finds that his son Konrad has been exploring, and posting to, far right Internet sites At some of these sites, Paul learns, the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff becomes a way of denying German war guilt recasting the Germans of the Third Reich as victims of Soviet cruelty rather than aggressors in war and perpetrators of the Holocaust Whereas virtually all mainstream Germans of the modern era accept the post World War II task and responsibility of Vergangensheitsbew ltigung coping with the past , Konrad and his new online friends seem to want to deny that past, to open old wounds, to speak the old language of anti Semitism and hatred.It does not help that Paul s mother, who gave birth to him on that terrible night, encourages the entire family, including her grandson Konrad, to participate in remembrance ceremonies attended by survivors of the Gustloff s sinking Paul recalls how his mother took young Konrad to a survivors reunion dressed up like a cross between an archangel and a boy at First Communion , and Paul remembers getting the sense that People were placing their hopes in him Great things were expected of our Konny He would not let the survivors down p 100.And it should be no surprise that remembrance, in post World War II Germany, can be a very complicated thing Paul recalls how another Gustloff survivor, the purser s assistant, discovered what can happen when one remembers an historical event in the wrong wayL ittle gratitude was expressed to this man who after the disaster had collected and researched almost everything he could track down At the beginning of the reunion he spoke on the topic The Sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloffon 30 January 1945 from the Russians Perspective In the course of his speech, it became evident that he had visited the Soviet Union often to do his research, had made the acquaintance of a petty officer and, what is , had remained in friendly contact with this Vladimir Kourotchkin, who, on his commander s orders, had sent the three torpedoes speeding on their way, and had even been photographed shaking hands with the old man With these revelations, he had lost some friends After the speech, they cut him dead From then on, many in the audience labeled him a Russian lover For them, the war had not ended The Russian was still Ivan, the three torpedoes murder weapons pp 100 101 But Paul knows, having listened to the purser s assistant, that the Soviet petty officer who fired the torpedoes thought he was destroying a military target filled with Nazi personnel and munitions of war and is forever haunted by what he learned only after the war that 4,000 children died in the torpedoing of the Wilhelm Gustloff What really happens at an historical event, it turns out, iscomplex than the way some may want to remember that event.Paul Pokriefke is forever confronting the unknown and unknowable regarding that night and, by implication, regarding history generally For instance, he is not even sure whether he was born on the Wilhelm Gustloff or on the L we, the torpedo boat that rescued his mother and almost 500 other survivors What Paul does know is that he doesn t even factor in to his son s online interest in the Wilhelm Gustloff saga There were no arguments on the Internet about any of this my birth and the people who supposedly played a role in it, on one ship or the other my son s Web site made no mention of a Paul Pokriefke, not even in abbreviated form Absolute silence about anything having to do with me My son simply left me out I didn t exist online pp 157 58 And what Paul sees is that the online chat rooms in which Konrad participates are a place where a sense of grievance over the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff has morphed into hatred for Russians, non Germans generally, and the Jewish people in particular.Konny s descent into the dark underbelly of the Internet eventuates in a hideous act of violence, and to a trial where, just as with his early participation in the Wilhelm Gustloff survivor community, Konny seems acutely conscious of playing a role Paul recalls that his son obviously enjoyed his speech to the court , and was listening to the applause of an imaginary audience pp 204 05 And Paul is left to wonder whether all of the crabwalking that he has done back and forth between his own present and past, and between the present and the past of his family and his country has served any purpose at all He thinks of his son as the someone in whose name I have been doing this crabwalk , thinks of the hateful sentiments that he has seen expressed online, and wonders grimly whether a hideous past may be starting to repeat itself.In the nearly two decades since Crabwalk was published, the amount of hatred and misinformation on the Internet has only proliferated further Dictatorships use social media technology to meddle with the elections of democracies The dark web provides safe places for the most evil impulses of humankind to be given free rein Far right political parties in Germany continue with their persistent efforts to reach into the German mainstream And the problems that Grass describes so eloquently in Crabwalk only seem to be growing worse Crabwalk displays in a singularly powerful manner G nter Grass s gifts as a storyteller and his talent for social criticism The technology we use to communicate our ideas has changed dramatically, Grass seems to suggest, but human beings must still choose whether to use that technology to communicate ideas that affirm and create or ideas that negate and destroy I suspect that most people who read this book in English do so because it s by Grass, and know nothing of the Wilhelm Gustloff, or the polemic of which this book was part I m the other way round although I do like Grass, I was especially interested in the Gustloff Were it not for that, I might not have read this book If I had, I don t think I would have understood it, and it wouldn t have grabbed me the way it has I doubt if it s Grass s best as literature The characters, though well drawn I suspect that most people who read this book in English do so because it s by Grass, and know nothing of the Wilhelm Gustloff, or the polemic of which this book was part I m the other way round although I do like Grass, I was especially interested in the Gustloff Were it not for that, I might not have read this book If I had, I don t think I would have understood it, and it wouldn t have grabbed me the way it has I doubt if it s Grass s best as literature The characters, though well drawn, are unattractive and don t engage you The structure is complex and confusing Neither is it especially vivid despite the drama of its subject, there s nothing like the revolting and haunting horse s head scene in The Tin Drum The critical reception for the English translation was mixed the Observer, in particular, gave it a good kicking Yet despite all this, there is good reason to give it five stars.The Wilhelm Gustloff was a German cruise liner that spent much of the war tied up in Gotenhafen the then German name for the Polish port of Gdynia At 1pm on January 30 1945, as the Russians approached, she left for western Germany with some U boat personnel, 300 odd women naval auxiliaries and an unknown but huge number of German civilian refugees Just after 9pm, she was torpedoed, in extremely bad weather, by a Russian submarine off the coast of Pomerania again, now part of Poland She sank within the hour About 1,250 people were rescued The dead are now thought to have numbered about 9,400, of which half may have been children It was the worst maritime disaster in history to put it in perspective, the death toll on the Titanic was about 1,600 Moreover eyewitness accounts invest the sinking with a horror that reduces the Titanic to farce There are two or three books about the sinking in English, the best being Dobson, Payne and Miller s excellent The Cruelest Night In the main, however, few people outside Germany know much about the sinking But Germans themselves certainly do, and it has become a political football, with right wing revisionists claiming the disaster as a war crime Grass said that he wrote Crabwalk at least partly to wrest the Gustloff from the hands of the Right In fact, the book appeared during a period of debate in Germany after W.G Sebald s 1997 warning that Germans silence about their own suffering had given the Right free rein to use it for its own purposes Grass clearly agreed Briefly summarised, Crabwalk is the story of a fictional German teenager, Tulla, who gives birth to a boy on the ship that has rescued her from the sea After the war she settles in East Germany, and becomes an enthusiastic Stalinist But son Paul goes to the West, becomes a journalist and is pressed by his mother to write the story of the sinking, although he does not really wish to In the meantime, he marries and has a son of his own the marriage fails, and the son, Konrad, grows up to become an awkward, geeky teenager and starts a revisionist website dedicated to the Gustloff and the Nazi hero after whom it was named But a Jewish boy enters his chatroom, and starts to argue with him Who this Jewish boy really turns out to be, and how their dispute ends, shouldn t be revealed here But this book is a fascinating allegory for Grass s view of postwar German history The wartime generation Tulla appears to repent but does it or does it simply adopt new orthodoxies the next generation Paul is so appalled by their country s history that they barely speak of it, and so do little to help the third generation Konrad come to terms with it The book ends against a backdrop of skinhead hate crimes in the late 1990s, forging a link between fascists past and present If I were German, I m not sure how I would view this book If I liked Grass, I might see it as a shrewd warning of the moral time bombs that still confront my country If I didn t, I might see it as a contrived vehicle for Grass s own view of postwar Germany Either way, my view would likely be coloured by where I lay to the left or right I honestly don t know Let Germans decide But this book transcends its German setting and is important for the rest of us First, Grass shows us how an insidious revisionism can soften the past by raising matters that are less relevant than they appear, deflecting attention from the real questions In this case, the revisionist introduces the fact that the Gustloff rescued the crew of a British freighter before the war, as if that were relevant to the German ship s eventual fate it isn t There is also talk about the civilian victims but evasion of the fact that the ship was also evacuating a U boat depot Meanwhile it is too easy not to ask who started the conflict from which the civilians were fleeing But at the same time, Grass also hints that decades of German self flagellation after the war had brought about a reaction, causing young Konrad to ask whether the Nazis could really have been so evil Every country that has wielded power to any extent has some questions to answer, so none of this is about German history alone.Grass offers other, subtler insights The ship was named after a Nazi organizer called Wilhelm Gustloff who was murdered by a Jewish student in Switzerland in 1936 Gustloff himself appears originally to have identified with the left wing, populist, part of the Party The ship itself was built for the Nazi Strength through Joy movement, intended to provide ordinary people with leisure and fresh air Unusually for its era, it was single class Through Gustloff s story and the liner named after him, Grass reminds the reader that fascist movements often appeal to the masses by appearing to champion them against the rich This is still so anti immigrant parties in Europe can present themselves as defending the working man against a liberal elite.Last but not least, this book shows a shrewd appreciation of the Internet and the way it can disseminate ideas of every kind, untested and unmoderated Or, to put it another way, lying to lots of people just got a whole lot easier Grass clearly understood the new technology and its potential implications for politics, and for our understanding of the past Not bad for a man who was already in his late sixties when the Net started to spread in earnest, and was 75 by the time the book was published.By an odd chance I finished this book only a day or two before Grass s death was announced It was his last novel, and shouldn t be the one he is judged by The Gustloff story could support a much bigger and better book than this Moreover Crabwalk could have been better planned and better written The characters, too, could have involved youBut maybe that s not the point Judge the book for what it is, rather than what it might have been, and you re still left with something quite remarkable a sharp, shrewd sideways look at history, by a man who, at 75, was still profoundly engaged with the past and future of his country If he wasn t a Nobel laureate, we d settle for that, wouldn t we The events surrounding the biggest naval disaster in history and its tragic outcome are not an easy topic to bring to the attention of the reader of fifty some years later Why only now is a good question and one that starts CRABWALK The Wilhelm Gustloff, a Strength through Joy cruise ship turned refugee carrier, sank after a Soviet submarine attack on January 30 1945 leading to the death ofthan 9,000 people, half of them children and infants Although the details of the sinking have The events surrounding the biggest naval disaster in history and its tragic outcome are not an easy topic to bring to the attention of the reader of fifty some years later Why only now is a good question and one that starts CRABWALK The Wilhelm Gustloff, a Strength through Joy cruise ship turned refugee carrier, sank after a Soviet submarine attack on January 30 1945 leading to the death ofthan 9,000 people, half of them children and infants Although the details of the sinking have been known since then, there has been reluctance to publicize them Grass has found a way to break the silence At least one aspect of his motivation for doing so revolves around the disaster s aftermath in today s society and emerges very clearly towards the end of the book.Tulla Pokriefke, one of the survivors of the tragedy, cannot find words to describe what she saw on the ship as the torpedoes hit There s no notes in the scale for it Nevertheless, for years she has been insisting that her son write it all down the way she remembers it Paul Pokriefke, a second rate middle aged journalist, born on one of the rescue ships at the time of the sinking, reluctantly takes on the job He s pressured into it by the major background player, Grass himself Paul timidly argues with Him about the format, scope and depth of his book He is in favour of a neutral documentary on the ship, its history and its namesake, a Nazi martyr and hero His disinclination to take on this project at all speaks volumes about his generation s reluctance to relive and confront all aspects of the German past Paul is typical in other ways too But He nags and guides Paul through the details take the central theme of the sinking of the ship and trace its history bring out the lives of the people directly connected with it don t forget Tulla, yourself and your son make it personal The outcome is a description of historical characters like Wilhelm Gustloff, the Nazi activist, David Frankfurter, the German Jew who killed him in 1936, and Alexandr Marinesko, the submarine captain who sank the vessel, interwoven with Paul s and his family s life, from then to now Three generations of Pokriefkes, deeply influenced by the disaster, have to deal with it and the wider Nazi history in their individual way None of them is comfortable with their present day life.It takes a specially gifted writer and authoritative critic like Gunter Grass to make this tragedy public in a format that is meaningful today Having referred to the sinking of the Gustloff in previous novels, it seems that He knew Tulla when she was young , he had been reluctant to expand on it until he had identified the right fictional frame in which to embed the facts He found it in the strong character of Tulla, 18 at the time of the disaster, who epitomizes the successful survivor and practical realist of her generation She remains in the East, seemingly switching allegiances without effort to the Stalinist regime, defending it long after the Wall has crumbled.Gunter Grass language and literary skills are undeniable but his often difficult language at least in German and his complex imagery and use of metaphor have brought him admirers as well as critics In Crabwalk, both the language and the imagery do not present any difficulty for the reader In fact, the text flows relatively smoothly it reads fast despite the subject matter Walking sideways like a crab and scuttling backwards to move forward describes the flow of the story Slowly the characters come into view and the different strands merge to form a comprehensive picture Paul sor less ongoing commentary about his writing efforts, his reactions to family and Him, his jumping back and forth in the story, results, at times, in a somewhat lighter,conversational tone.Grass deliberately uses the structure of a traditional novella not specified in the English version to convey the historical events and their impact on his group of Germans An addition to being a short novel , a novella is usuallytightly structured and focused on a single major event It often comprises a didactic angle or moral message All of these elements can be found in Crabwalk Grass message in particular addresses the after war generation s He integrates into the story the recurrent problem of young neo nazis, skinheads and the danger of hate websites on the Internet characterized through Paul s son Konny He reflects on the inability of the parent generation to come to terms with the children as well as their own reality He criticizes the lukewarm attitudes towards politics and history by many Germans of Paul s generation He is concerned with what the future holds The German word Krebs CRAB also means cancer Although not stated directly the reader of German cannot avoid reflecting on this connotation Like cancers, totalitarian and fascist systems infect society, then go into remission, come and go Can we be wholly cured of them Crabwalk is on many levels an important book, which leaves you with ample food for thought It took me nearly ten days to read this not too long book It was intentional I think each and every sentence of the book is there for some reason, although I could not get the reason to some The story revolves around a silly happening in today s world where the Internet exists and is a common modality for communication The happening is simple when you get it , but getting it is not so simple The writer himself claims in one of the beginning pages that he is going to narrate in a manner that It took me nearly ten days to read this not too long book It was intentional I think each and every sentence of the book is there for some reason, although I could not get the reason to some The story revolves around a silly happening in today s world where the Internet exists and is a common modality for communication The happening is simple when you get it , but getting it is not so simple The writer himself claims in one of the beginning pages that he is going to narrate in a manner that resembles the way a crab walks going forward and backward in a way that the overall result is a slow forward movement So, the whole story is a continuous movement between memories and present realities This is very innovative to write a novel in such a method, isn t it The way he builds the characters gradually is quite artistic It gave me a good sense of the people who had been zealous , rather overzealous, about their ideas before , during and after the second world war, and how they used to think and act Moreover , his presentation of the war is fair and not too much pro jew, which is the case with so many famous art pieces about the war Despite the fact that , at the end you start to think negatively about Nazis, new or old, you get to consider the dogmatic approach taken by the jews, which is not noticeablycivilized than the Nazis.The book looks at the world war from a different angle.It is worth mentioning that I read the Persian translation of the book and it was quite satisfactory.Overall, I recommend everybody, specifically those who do not like to read very clearly cut stories, to go for this read I really learned to look at modern story telling from a better ,advanced point of view.Cheers Farzin The Tin Drum by G nter Grass made a big impression on me when I first read it 20 years ago and it s high on my list of books to reread Crabwalk is not as good, but is much shorter and plays on familiar Grass themes, namely post war German society and its attitudes Grass uses the little know worst maritime disaster in history, the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff by a Russian submarine in January 1945, with the loss of over 9,000 lives, as the fulcrum for his story The narrator is Paul Pokriefk The Tin Drum by G nter Grass made a big impression on me when I first read it 20 years ago and it s high on my list of books to reread Crabwalk is not as good, but is much shorter and plays on familiar Grass themes, namely post war German society and its attitudes Grass uses the little know worst maritime disaster in history, the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff by a Russian submarine in January 1945, with the loss of over 9,000 lives, as the fulcrum for his story The narrator is Paul Pokriefke, a washed up writer whose patron pushes him to write a book about the disaster, mainly because Paul was born on the Gustloff the night it sank, before being rescued with his mother Tulla During the course of his research, Paul comes across a website that glorifies the person for whom the ship was named, a staunch Nazi who was assassinated by a Jewish student in 1936 It turns out the website is run by Paul s teenage son, Konrad, heavily influenced by grandmother Tulla, who thinks the Gustloff story should be widely told and reminisces about the happy days when it was a cruise ship subsidized by the Nazis Konrad s right wing dogma is opposed by the arguments of his chat room rival, a Jew Their back and forth arguments and interaction contrast the scenes describing the real Gustloff and his Jewish assassin, David Frankfurter Grass uses three generations of characters to skillfully paint a picture of German attitudes and where they are going since the war ended There is Paul s mother Tulla and his mysterious patron who could be Paul s father or Grass himself This generation that lived through the war recognizes the suffering of the German people and want their story told, rather than dwelling on a guilty past and keeping quiet There is Paul s generation who have an overwhelming sense of guilt and never want to talk about the war And there is the next generation who are starting to ask questions, who want to knowThis latter generation s opinions are driven in two very different directions, fueled by the silence of their parents the right wing using past guilt and non recognition of German suffering as a platform for Neo Nazi doctrine and the left wing who want to take responsibility for Germany s past and speak openly about it The two viewpoints are represented by young Konrad and his opponent, who expound both sides of the Gustloff sinking story to further their arguments the Gustloff was also carrying hundreds of German auxiliary naval personnel, although their numbers were dwarfed by the overwhelming number of civilian refugees on board While probably not Grass s best work, Crabwalk does paint a realistic picture of the gamut of German attitudes towards the war I ve heard the same arguments from German friends It still remains relevant today 20 years after its publication, evenso with the rise of the political right and anti immigration movement not only in Germany but in Europe as a whole G nter Grass, the Nobel laureate and brilliant chronicler of Germany s tortured relationship to its past, died in April 2015 This short novel, published in 2002Im Krebsgang , was his last work of fiction Its narrator tells his story by sidling up to the historical event at its core, then scuttling back, crablike, then approaching it again And in this way we gradually move forward On January 30, 1945, a Russian submarine fired three torpedoes at the MV Wilhelm Gustloff, a passenger ship G nter Grass, the Nobel laureate and brilliant chronicler of Germany s tortured relationship to its past, died in April 2015 This short novel, published in 2002Im Krebsgang , was his last work of fiction Its narrator tells his story by sidling up to the historical event at its core, then scuttling back, crablike, then approaching it again And in this way we gradually move forward On January 30, 1945, a Russian submarine fired three torpedoes at the MV Wilhelm Gustloff, a passenger ship built to hold 1,900 people that hadthan 10,000 aboard, most of them German refugees fleeing the advancing Red Army The ship sank in the icy Baltic within an hour Only about 1,200 were rescued among the dead were as many as 4,000 children It was the worst loss at sea in history 1,600 went down on the Titanic , although neither the Germans or Soviets were inclined to publicize it, either at the time or since This is the historical event around which Grass s fictional narrator crabwalks.As he has in much of his work, Grass examines the consequences of generations of Germans failing to confront the past In the fictional family in this book, three generations are marked by the suppression of the story of the Wilhelm Gustloff Tulla Pokriefke, a survivor, was eighteen and eight months pregnant when she boarded the ship She went into labor after the first torpedo struck and gave birth aboard a rescue ship as the Wilhelm Gustloff sank She has pressed her son, Paul, now a middle aged hack journalist, to write about the ship and its fate, to reclaim a place in history for the Germans as victims When he finally does so, it is at the behest of an older author, presumably Grass himself As Paul works his way around the story, his Internet research leads him to a neo Nazi site that glorifies the ship and its namesake He realizes that the site is maintained by his teenage son Konny who, influenced by his grandmother, has found in right wing extremism the appetite to acknowledge the suffering of Germans during the war.Grass s many layered telling includes the back story of the ship and its namesake, a martyred Nazi functionary the assassin, a Jewish medical student who killed Gustloff in Switzerland in 1936 the Russian submarine commander andIt is a well told, gripping story, short on moralizing but with an unmistakable message that is stated by the Grass figure Actually, he says, his generation should have been the one It should have found words for the hardships endured by the Germans fleeing East Prussia Never, he said, should his generation have kept silent about such misery, merely because its own sense of guilt was so overwhelming, merely because for years the need to accept responsibility and show remorse took precedence, with the result that they abandoned the topic to the right wing This failure, he says, was staggering.The novel is yet another powerful reminder of the ways in which failing to honestly confront the lessons and symbols of the past continue to bedevil us As I write this, the bandwagon to finally acknowledge the meaning of the Confederate flag is gaining steam As Grass writes It doesn t end Never will it end. The events surrounding the biggest naval disaster in history and its tragic outcome are not an easy topic to bring to the attention of the reader of fifty some years later Why only now is a good question and one that starts IM KREBSGANG The Wilhelm Gustloff, a Strength through Joy cruise ship turned refugee carrier, sank after a Soviet submarine attack on January 30 1945 leading to the death ofthan 9,000 people, half of them children and infants Although the details of the sinking The events surrounding the biggest naval disaster in history and its tragic outcome are not an easy topic to bring to the attention of the reader of fifty some years later Why only now is a good question and one that starts IM KREBSGANG The Wilhelm Gustloff, a Strength through Joy cruise ship turned refugee carrier, sank after a Soviet submarine attack on January 30 1945 leading to the death ofthan 9,000 people, half of them children and infants Although the details of the sinking have been known since then, there has been reluctance to publicize them Grass has found a way to break the silence At least one aspect of his motivation for doing so revolves around the disaster s aftermath in today s society and emerges clearly towards the end of the book.Tulla Pokriefke, one of the survivors of the tragedy, cannot find words to describe what she saw on the ship as the torpedoes hit There s no notes in the scale for it Nevertheless, for years she has been insisting that her son write it all down the way she remembers it Paul Pokriefke, a second rate middle aged journalist, born on one of the rescue ships at the time of the sinking, reluctantly takes on the job He s pressured into it by the major background player, Grass himself Paul timidly argues with Him about the format, scope and depth of his book He is in favour of a neutral documentary on the ship, its history and its namesake, a Nazi martyr and hero His disinclination to take on this project at all speaks volumes about his generation s reluctance to relive and confront all aspects of the German past Paul is typical in other ways too But He nags and guides Paul through the details take the central theme of the sinking of the ship and trace its history bring out the lives of the people directly connected with it don t forget Tulla, yourself and your son make it personal The outcome is a description of historical characters like Wilhelm Gustloff, the Nazi activist, David Frankfurter, the German Jew who killed him in 1936, and Alexandr Marinesko, the submarine captain who sank the vessel, interwoven with Paul s and his family s life, from then to now Three generations of Pokriefkes, deeply influenced by the disaster, have to deal with it and the wider Nazi history in their individual way None of them is comfortable with their present day life.It takes a specially gifted writer and authoritative critic like Gunter Grass to make this tragedy public in a format that is meaningful today Having referred to the sinking of the Gustloff in previous novels, it seems that He knew Tulla when she was young , he had been reluctant to expand on it until he had identified the right fictional frame in which to embed the facts He found it in the strong character of Tulla, 18 at the time of the disaster and turning completely white on that day, who epitomizes the successful survivor and practical realist of her generation She remains in the East, seemingly switching allegiances without effort to the Stalinist regime, defending it long after the Wall has crumbled.Gunter Grass language and literary skills are undeniable but his often difficult language at least in German and his complex imagery and use of metaphor have brought him admirers as well as critics In this book, both the language and the imagery do not present any difficulty for the reader In fact, the text flows relatively smoothly it reads fast despite the subject matter Walking sideways like a crab and scuttling backwards to move forward describes the flow of the story Slowly the characters come into view and the different strands merge to form a comprehensive picture Paul sor less ongoing commentary about his writing efforts, his reactions to family and Him, his jumping back and forth in the story, results, at times, in a somewhat lighter,conversational tone.Grass deliberately uses the structure of a traditional novella to convey the historical events and their impact on his group of Germans An addition to being a short novel , a novella is usuallytightly structured and focused on a single major event It often comprises a didactic angle or moral message All of these elements can be found in this novella Grass message in particular addresses the after war generation s He integrates into the story the recurrent problem of young neo nazis, skinheads and the danger of hate websites on the Internet characterized through Paul s son Konny He reflects on the inability of the parent generation to come to terms with the children as well as their own reality He criticizes the lukewarm attitudes towards politics and history by many Germans of Paul s generation He is concerned with what the future holds The German word Krebs also means cancer Although not stated directly the reader of German cannot avoid reflecting on this connotation Like cancers, totalitarian and fascist systems infect society, then go into remission, come and go Can we be wholly cured of them IM KREBSGANG is on many levels an important book, which leaves you with ample food for thought R.I.P G nter Grass 1927 2015 Crabwalk, by G nter GrassG nter Grass Im Krebsgang appeared in 2002, a late work, but one of the best Grass ever wrote The incident at the center of this book is not well known I learned about it only recently in the pages of Max Hastings excellent Armageddon, The Battle for Germany, 1944 1945 In late January, 1945, the six million man Red Army had finally pushed the Axis armies into Germany, and looting, burning, rape and murder were the payback for years R.I.P G nter Grass 1927 2015 Crabwalk, by G nter GrassG nter Grass Im Krebsgang appeared in 2002, a late work, but one of the best Grass ever wrote The incident at the center of this book is not well known I learned about it only recently in the pages of Max Hastings excellent Armageddon, The Battle for Germany, 1944 1945 In late January, 1945, the six million man Red Army had finally pushed the Axis armies into Germany, and looting, burning, rape and murder were the payback for years of the same committed by the Axis powers in the Soviet Union German civilians were desperate to escape to the relative safety of the region soon to be under the boot of the Allies On January 30 a former cruise ship, the Wilhelm Gustloff, designed for a complement of 1,900, was packed with an estimated 8,000 10,000 persons civilians and some soldiers, many severely wounded , including some 4,500 children, and set course westward in the frigid Baltic Sea 18 degrees Celsius were measured an icebreaker had to open a passage in the Danzig Bay A Russian submarine happened upon the vessel and sank it with a loss of all but 949 known survivors according to Hastings 1,239 according to Grass , making this the greatest maritime disaster in history A week later the same submarine sank another such refugee ship, from which only 300 of a complement of 3,000 survived Grass was born in Danzig, a few miles from the port from which the Wilhelm Gustloff began its last voyage He may well have known some of the people who disappeared into the Baltic s deathly cold waters So, how did he choose to write about this horrific incident Complexly, with many layers The narrator is a mediocre journalist whose mother was aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff that fateful evening he was born that night in the ship that rescued her He dances around the central incident with fascinated horror and repulsion, approaching it, touching it, and then hastening away To avoid addressing it he tells the story of his entire family up till the present, as well as those of three outsiders the Nazi functionary after whom the ship was named, the Jewish student who assassinated him in Switzerland, and the captain of the Soviet submarine that fired three torpedoes into the overfilled ship He also tells the story of his research about the incident, including the close inspection of Nazi friendly websites , as well as the entire life story of the Wilhelm Gustloff The narration is a complex simultaneous mixture of all of these and stillelements, jumping about through time and space.Grass himself appears in the book as an old and tired writer who encourages the narrator to finally give expression to the suffering of the east Prussians, instead of leaving it up to the right wing revanchists Now and again, Grass gives him advice how to proceed.When the narrator finally brings himself to describe the actual sinking, he tries to remain as reserved, as factual as possible, relying on the reports of the survivors, of the complement of the single accompanying German ship, and of the sailors of the Russian submarine I won t say anythingabout it However, 1 4 of the book still remains, because as moving as the history surrounding and the story of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff are, through the narration of his family s history and of the brown websites Grass has not merely allowed his narrator to avoid describing the traumatic incident but has been, in a completely non abstract manner, ruminating about mankind s relation to history what individuals don t know, what they think they know, what they are willing to modify or assume, what they are willing to do in the name of their understanding of history In this final quarter of the text another surprise emerges another, smaller tragedy occurs which further extends and deepens the book I won t spoil any surprises.Grass prose is neither flashy nor brilliant in this text though I enjoyed the Danziger dialect the narrator s mother always speaks The art of this book is manifested in the tightly woven mesh of so many distinct threads I m simply amazed at how much Grass could fit into a 216 page text without it seeming to be an overloaded information dump On the contrary, Im Krebsgang is a rich, harrowing and moving book It is in every respect the fourth volume of a Danzig tri tetralogy, the primary reason why Grass received the Nobel Prize His free spirited mother, Tulla Pokriefke, also made an appearance in Grass Katz und Maus Cat and Mouse , the second book in Grass Danzig Trilogy One of which supplied him with a most unpleasant surprise Grass s novel is about the deadliest marine disaster in history, but few have ever heard of it In January 1945, a cruise ship which had been reconfigured to transport German refugees, the Wilhelm Gustloff, was sunk by a Soviet submarine in icy Baltic waters More than 9,000 German refugees died, about 5,000 of them children 1,252 were rescued and survived By comparison, about 1,500 people died on the Titanic Germany apparently tried to keep the disaster under wraps so as not to demoralize Grass s novel is about the deadliest marine disaster in history, but few have ever heard of it In January 1945, a cruise ship which had been reconfigured to transport German refugees, the Wilhelm Gustloff, was sunk by a Soviet submarine in icy Baltic waters More than 9,000 German refugees died, about 5,000 of them children 1,252 were rescued and survived By comparison, about 1,500 people died on the Titanic Germany apparently tried to keep the disaster under wraps so as not to demoralize the German populace.Grass creates a fictional survivor, a teenage girl who is 8 months pregnant and gives birth right after being rescued by another ship Her son Paul is the first person narrator of the novel He now has a teenage son, Konrad All three of them are obsessed with the story of the Gustloff Paul goes back and forth from the present to the past this is the crabwalk of the title to tell the stories of himself, his mother, and his son Meantime Konrad argues with another young man in a chatroom devoted to the disaster, making anti Semitic comments The namesake of the ship was a Swiss Nazi who had been assassinated by a Jew in 1936 While the history lesson is horrible, tragic, and fascinating, Grass s story and characters are unappealing The novel ends with an unpleasant twist which feels cheap and exploitative