Saturday, December 09, 2006

An Alternative to "Perfume"

One of my students, a German major, mentioned loving Perfume. Well, she's young and probably hasn't read much. Rather than blasting Perfume, I suggested she read something by Gűnther Grass, one of my favorite authors. Grass is quite controversial lately after recently remembering his participation as a youth in Nazi politics, but I'll gloss over that.

I first read his Cat and Mouse in a class in German novelas (in translation). I moved on to the epic The Tin Drum, before getting to my favorite, The Flounder, which is an incredible history of the interaction of Western women and men from prehistoric times till the present. The story weaves together the myth of the flounder and the fishwife, who's been much maligned throughout history. That folk figure was not originally such a shrew. The frame of the plot is the narrator's wife's pregnancy. Each of the nine books corresponds to a month in her pregancy. Grass is a master and I loved his epic catalogs and perceptive insights. Now I did read this 20 years ago, but I haven't read anything better (equal maybe) that The Flounder.

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