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Dog Years Paperback – October 16, 1989


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

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (October 16, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 015626112X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156261128
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #765,467 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Dog Years is a meditation on modern history in the guise of a novel, a study of Germany before, during and after the Second World War, a tale of the interrelated fortunes of two friends, Walter Matern, Aryan, and Eddi Amsel, half-Jew. In its well-nigh stupefying length, in its almost ritual use of distortions, shifting perspectives, and completely unaccommodating, dispassionate weaving of minutiae (at once quaint, brutal, and poetic), and in the terrible geniality of its denunciatory spirit and in its disgusts, it is without doubt one of the most astonishing literary performances since Finnegans Wake. It is also, naturally, one of the most troubling. By comparison, The Tin Drum is a mere roller coaster ride through the Absurd. Grass' technique- a mingling of Beckett, Brecht, and his own half-solemn, half-winking naturalism- Juxtaposes the traditional order of character and situation with quasi-allegorical effects: e.g., the recurrent word play on Heideggerian concepts; the deadpan caricature of mass media, the cool nightmarish descriptions of industry; the quirky, staccato close-ups of front line fighting; above all, the underlying canine metaphor whereby a stud dog, involved in the adolescence of all the participants, fathers der Fuhrer's favorite hound, Pluto, later picked up by Natern on his hellish post-war Journey. Lupus est homo homini etc...??Matern, of course, represents history's adjustable man: protector and tormentor of his "sheeny" friend, battered about the Left and Right ("I was red, put on brown, wore black, dyed myself red. Spit on me..."); Amsel, of course, is his alter ego. Dog Years is a product of the Cold War, in which absolutes boringly teeter on the brink, in which men (who have become sociologized "topics of discussion") scowl at each other or try to touch through a thick universal pane of glass. An important book which will receive an important press. (Kirkus Reviews)

Language Notes

Text: English, German (translation)

Customer Reviews

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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
First: If you decide to tackle the Danzig Trilogy, Reddick's critical analysis is indispensable. I suggest tackling it the same way I did: read The Tin Drum, start Reddick's book at the same time you start Cat and Mouse (Reddick reads faster than Grass, and you'll get through a lot of Reddick while tackling Grass), and when you've caught up, read Reddick's section on Dog Years and the actual novel concurrently.

Those of you who feel the revelation of anything having to do with a book before you get to that part in the book is a spoiler should probably avoid this technique; Reddick revelas the major "mystery" in Dog Years towards the end of his section on Cat and Mouse. However, one cannot really consider Dog Years a mystery, despite the various things that happen within it; while there are some elements to it that keep the reader guessing, Dog Years is, more than anything, a savage satire on Germany during the WW2 years. And as such, finding out the main mystery-that's-not-a-mystery should not detract at all from one's appreciation of the book itself.

Dog Years can also stand on its own, without being read as a part of the Danzig Trilogy, but the reader's appreciation of many facets of this novel-- most notably Edouard Amsel's character and the satire itself-- are more easily appreciated when you have The Tin Drum and Cat and Mouse under your belt as comparisons. Amsel, the main protagonist of Dog Years, stands as a direct comparison to both Oskar and Mahlke, and his character is more easily understood when those two have already been assimilated by the reader.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 31, 1999
Format: Paperback
As good as 'Tin Drum' but far more accessible and direct in its impact on the darkness and light in the German psyche. The only author from Germany to honestly address the issues of what led to WWII and its aftermath. There is a hilarious and brilliant passage towards the end of the second part of the book which takes a savage poke at Heidegger and German love for abstraction. A gem of a book.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
Grass uses wonderful, dense, invented words and peppers his novel with wonderful, dense, twisted imagery. Which is why I admire the work and why I was determined to finish the book although it was as intellectually heavy as a brick and occassionally tried my patience. This is not a book for an MTV-hyperactive attention span. More than a reflection of German mentality, it is a journey into the German mind, because so many times it follows a stream-of-consciousness approach. Sometimes it feels as if you're on a rollercoaster ride through the tunnels of a character's mind. Which is why I hated it too. I felt that many times the book became self-indulgent... that is, Grass wasn't writing for the reader but for himself or as a catharsis for his characters.
I only realized Dog Years was part of a trilogy after I bought it, and I enjoyed The Tin Drum much more because I read it after seeing the movie (it relieved the mind from loads of exertion). Although I am immensely relieved to have finally finished Dog Years, I still can't wait to read the other book of the trilogy, Cat and Mouse. Love to hate Grass.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Baxter on July 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
I am not going to attempt to describe Dog Years other than to say it is a stunning work by a brilliant writer at the top of his game. It should be required reading for anyone seeking to understand the German psyche in the 20th century. Some may find the style challenging, but there's a method to Grass's madness, and if you give it time, Dog Years will reward you like no other book you've ever read. Personally, I was hooked right away, but even allowing for taste, Grass will win you over sooner or later. The Tin Drum is a masterpiece, but Dog Years is even better.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Helen Maryles Shankman on April 17, 2012
Format: Paperback
Two boys and a dog are on the banks of a river, watching debris stream by--furniture, uniforms from past wars, clothing from other eras, the carcasses of cats and farm animals. In other words, German history.

The two friends are Walter Matern and Eduard Amsel, who is not-so-secretly half-Jewish. Eddi is an artist and a thinker; Matern is more physical, acting as his bodyguard. With a gang of friends, he was happily beating the overweight Eddi in the schoolyard, when for no reason he could understand, he suddenly switched sides.

The two boys are inseparable, growing up together in the flat farmland near the Vistula. One day, little Amsel discovers that he's an artist; he makes scarecrows out of sticks and pipes and discarded clothing, wonderful scarecrows that do a miraculous job of scaring the crows away. Everyone wants one. But over time, the scarecrows come to resemble people he knows, culminating in a fearsome bird monster. The townspeople turn on him, making him destroy his collection and his studio, forcing him to leave town.

Later in the novel, when Hitler is firmly in control of Germany, Amsel, now a young man, smiles and tries eagerly to fit in. In the novel's most chilling scene, Matern, seduced by the deadly tribal brotherhood of the Storm Troopers, leads a brutal attack on his oldest friend, viciously breaking every one of his teeth. A changed Eddi Amsel rises from the earth, packs a suitcase and slips away into the night.

The second section of the novel is written as a series of letters from the morally ambivalent everyman Harry Liebenau to his beloved cousin Tula, detailing their childhood, his experiences as a soldier, and the history and pedigree of the German Shepherd Prinz, Hitler's favorite dog.
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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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