question everything



Ubaid Dhiyan's Facebook profile

Support Wikipedia
Kiva - loans that change lives
Get Firefox
Crabwalk - a quick review
Gunter Grass is an iconic figure in German, rather, world literature, with a resounding classic like The Tin Drum in his portfolio and having been awarded the Nobel in 1999. I didn't really enjoy The Tin Drum but that I attribute to a shortcoming on my part and not of the writing itself, now my appreciation of that kind of literature has only, well, appreciated.

Crabwalk is an examination of what was one of the great maritime disasters of the last century, the greatest actually, as the author keeps reminding us throughout the book. This book has been called one of Grass' most accessible works, and it is, unless the translator (Krishna Winston), did a terrible job, but we'll give him the benefit of doubt here. The title refers to the erratic manner a crab makes progress, sliding this way and that and the narration tries to hold true to that notion, but the book is still fairly simply structured. The narrator was born, amazingly and miraculously, at the very instant the Wilhelm Gustoloff sank after being hit by three torpedoes from a Russian U-Boat. I find it a little amusing and very instructive, this emphasis on births of coincidence in some of the great books I've read, for example, Rushdie has his protagonist being born at the very instant of India's independence in Midnight's Children and Omar Khayyam Shakil, hero of Shame, again by Rushdie, is born seemingly of three interchangeable moms.

Being a very short book there are some obvious shortcomings, though it is a quick read and none too demanding, the characters fail to make a lasting impression, from the mother who is obsessed with that single event of her life, to the son that lets himself be misled and misguided enough to be absolutely certain of his flawed convictions. The author tells of the assasination of the person Wilhelm Gustoloff an incident that resulted in the christening of the ship after him, Gustoloff's assassin David Frankfurther who committed the act with a hope to rally the Jews against rising Nazi atrocities, of of the U-Boat captain who was motivated by a little more than duty and patriotism when he took those shots and of the narrator's son who is enraged by the fact that this significant loss of life remains buried in a sense of shame amongst the Germans.

The end of the book is poignant, almost hopeless, as it concludes with the refusal of history to leave us alone, of its habit to keep repeating, like a crab walking in incessant, imperfect circles. A decent Sunday afternoon read, I couldn't help feeling a slight sense of having missed out on some nuance that may have been lost in translation.

eXTReMe Tracker