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Cat and Mouse Paperback – October 31, 1991

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Cat and Mouse + Dog Years + The Tin Drum
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 189 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt, Inc.; Reprint edition (October 31, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156155516
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156155519
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #278,472 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"'Gunter Grass' second novel is quite different in character from The Tin Drum." less of a showcase for an obstreperous talent (although there are still scenes of caricature and occasional scabrous humor), it is a more controlled book and far more internalized. This time the German-realist-surrealist, while again using many symbolic allusions, has subdued some of the abstractions, some of the elements of the absurd. The latter is chiefly apparent in the physical disfigurement of the central character which again singularizes him: the demonic Oskar Matzerath was a dwarf; now it is the protuberant Adam's apple which jumps conspicuously like a mouse, the neck of Mahlke whose story is told by his friend Pilenz. Both boys grow up together in a small Danzig town and the always solicitous, increasingly admiring Pilenz follows Mahlke, in a sense an unlikely hero, odd, quiet, solemn, devout, as he performs his amazing feats. These extend from the childish games, when- as an underwater diver- he brings up trophies from a sunken minesweeper in the bay, to the atrocities of war and his spectacular performance in action. Little by little, however, there is the erosion of the individual by the system and Mahlke, the "mouse", the "clown", but most of all the "redeemer" with his resounding faith, goes deliberately to his death. It is the gesture of the individual against the philistinism which has always dominated German life and which was so much a part of the earlier book.... A tantalizing, eloquent, strange and strangely moving book, filled with remarkable scenes, a tragi-comic vitality and a transcendental vision. " (Kirkus Reviews)

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German

Customer Reviews

I knew I was in for a greuling read.
Thomas Edgar
This is the first of Grass's Danzig trilogy I have viewed, and I understand after reading "The Tin Drum" my fondness for this novel may be encapsulated.
Gordon Ehrensing
I was totally engrossed throughout, and I could picture everything in my mind.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Robert Beveridge HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on June 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
I first read Cat and Mouse without the benefit of having read The Tin Drum beforehand, and I missed a lot. Cat and Mouse is the second book in Grass' Danzig Trilogy, three books that look at life in Danzig under the Nazi regime from three different points of view (the tales are told concurrently, and time can be fixed by seeing the same event from different points of view; for example, the picnic taken by the jazz trio and Schmuh in Book III of The Tin Drum shows up towards the end of Cat and Mouse, and Matern, one of the main characters of Dog Years, shows up in The Onion Cellar, where Oskar's jazz band is retained, in The Tin Drum).

Cat and Mouse is actually a novella, originally a part of Dog Years that broke off and took on a life of its own; on the surface it is the tale of Joachim Mahlke, a high school student with a protruding adam's apple (the Mouse of the title), and his fascination with a sunken Polish minesweeper after he learns to swim at the age of thirteen. It is also the story of Pilenz, the narrator and Mahlke's best friend. The two spend their high school years in wartime Poland, reacting to various things, and that's about as much plot as this little slice of life needs.

The interesting thing about Cat and Mouse is its complete difference in tone from the other two novels. Both The Tin Drum and (what I've read so far of) Dog Years have the same high-pitched, almost hysterical humor combined with a profound sense of teleology (not surprising given the apocalyptic nature of life in Danzig under the Nazis); Grass attempts to confront the horror with over-the-top slapstick, because only through that kind of comparison is it possible to make the reader understand.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Edgar on November 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
Okay, I'll admit freely: "Katz und Maus" was required reading in school, which obviously biased me against it immediately. What's worse, it was German postwar literature, which never fails to be depressing and downbeat. I knew I was in for a greuling read.
And then, suddenly, it wasn't. In fact, I started liking it from the first line, and carried on until the end, which I'd give away if I said wasn't an end, so I'll let you read it yourself.
The story is complicated and non-linear. It is told from a first person narrative, the exact reliability of which is consatantly brought into question, either by the fog of the years or deliberate misconstruction due to feelings of guilt, the narrator never seems too sure about what happened, often offering several different versions of the same story at the same time, and even going so far as to admit his own fictitiousness. The story that serves as a Leitmotiv, as well as title of the book, is the cat that attacked Mahlke's adam's apple, and exactly how it got there.
What I found most striking about the book on first glance was the descriptions of the places and characters that the novella is centered on. At the same time, you have a feeling that it's merely a part of a greater whole. It fits in with the other two books in the so-called Danzig Trilogy seamlessly, yet still sets itself apart.
I have another confession to make: I attend a German high school, and so I read it in German. In my opinion, though what I've read of the excerpts seems like a decent translation, Günter Grass is an author who uses the German language to its full extent, emplying every manner of grammatical and syntactical tricks to underline the story. These, unfotunately, are completely lost in the translation. If you understand German decently, I would strongly encourage you to seek out an original language text.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Yaumo Gaucho on July 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a sensitively written tale of Joachim Mahlke and his "mouse" (that up-and-down-bobbing Adam's apple of his) -- through the eyes of an unreliable narrator reminiscing about his youth, and life, and morals, and how ordinary, decent people, some of them children, lived in Hitler's Germany. Realistic, telling, bittersweet. Lots of little chases and reflections: hence cat and mouse. Often uproariously funny, sometimes with a deeper message, sometimes just for humor.
Cat and Mouse is the most purely enjoyable book I've read in a long time. Perhaps not the most challenging to read (that's not always a bad thing), but definitely the most enjoyable.
There's lots of subsurface musing about war and the morality of killing... for an American, it reminds one of the collective guilt brought about by Vietnam. (But it is never in-your-face war-musings a la Tim O'Brien or anyone like that.) Yes, these teenage boys joined the Hitler Youth and aspired to shoot at British airplanes; but can we blame them? And can they morally redeem themselves decades later -- and need they?
A side point: I was shocked by one frequent error among reviewers here. How can people read this book and think that it is set in Poland! Its German setting is perhaps its most salient feature. It is set in what was then Germany, although that part of Germany became Poland after WW2.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Manuel Haas on August 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
Joachim Mahlke and his friend Plienz (who is the narrator of the story) grow up in wartime Danzig, the free city disputed between Germany and Poland over which World War II started. Maybe the most striking feature of the novella is that it shows how natural the war and Nazi rule appear to those adolescents, simply because it is the only world they know.
The "Great" Joachim Mahlke is the dubious hero of the story. His most striking feature is his huge Adam's apple, about which he feels highly self-conscious. Maybe he is trying so hard to be a hero to make the others forget his deformity? Is that what makes him dive into the sunken Polish minesweeper to retrieve all kinds of objects? Is that why he steals an Iron Cross from a war hero? (The Iron Cross is a medal worn around the neck, so that it would hide Mahlke's Adam's apple). And is it finally, the reason why Mahlke is so keen on joining the army himself? After a short time he has destroyed so many Russian tanks that he is awarded the Iron Cross himself...
This summary will give you only a faint idea of the book, for it cannot encapsulate the feeling of summer and of being young which Grass manages to include - without denying the dreadful things happening at the very same time. In a book of less than 200 pages Grass resurrects the Danzig of his own youth. If you haven't read any Grass yet, start at this one; it is perfect.
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More About the Author

Born in Danzig, Germany, in 1927, Günter Grass is a widely acclaimed author of plays, essays, poems, and numerous novels. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999.

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