Monday, August 21, 2006

Lee Lowe ...

... weighs in on the Grass controversy in With so much furore. It seems to me that Grass is simply being judged by a standard that he himself set. I do agree that his hypocrisy does not necessarily make his fictions any less effective, because it is the story itself, not the storyteller, that we should trust. But I have never been a fan of Grass's work, so that's not much a problem for me.


  1. In his fiction, Grass makes it very clear that it is foolish to look for leaders or heroes who claim to be "pure" moral icons worthy of emulation. That is always dangerous.

    If you follow the logic of his fiction, this revelation should have been, oddly enough, predictable.

    The cheap moral question is to do with judging Grass. The real because unsettling one is if you or I would really have done much better in his shoes. If you had gotten a letter telling you to report to the Waffen SS in 1945, you would have...? And later you would have dealt with the shame of it by...?

    I just don't see most humans acting any better, frankly.

  2. Back in February 1966, when I received an invitation from my draft board to pay them a visit for a physical, I wrote back declining. It's a long story and the only thing really interesting about it is that I acted entirely on my own thoughout - no lawyer, no organization backing me up - and the board and I arrived very civilly at a mutually satisfying accommodation. Would I have done that in Germany in 1943? I don't think so. I cannot discern in mysdelf any heroic dimensions.
    But I have tried to make it clear that my criticism of Grass in this instance has nothing to do with the authenticity of his fiction. As I see it, he is being hoist on his own petard: The standard by which he is being judged is one that he applied relentlessly to others. If you are unwilling to grant extenuations to others, you can hardly be surprised if others prove reluctant to extend them to you.