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My Century Paperback – November 1, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (November 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156011417
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156011419
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 5.6 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #498,089 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Perhaps it's fitting that the 1999 winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, Günter Grass, should be the one to see the old millennium out in style. His My Century is comprised of 100 short chapters, one for each year of the 20th century, each told by a different narrator. And of course, since Grass is German, the century he refers to is German as well--a fact that could prove a little daunting to readers not familiar with the intricacies of that country's history. "1900," for example, throws us smack in the middle of the Chinese Boxer Rebellion from a German soldier's point of view. "1903" jumps us into the head of a young student who, clad in a new boater, admires the first Zeppelin, buys a copy of Thomas Mann's latest book, Buddenbrooks, and attends the launching of the world's largest ship, Imperator, among other historical events. "1904" is concerned with a miners' strike and "1906" is all about German-Moroccan foreign relations.

Yet as year succumbs to year and one narrative voice piles on top of the next, My Century becomes more than the sum of its parts. And Grass always manages to surprise. The chapters "1914" through "1918," for example, rather than being narrated by the usual suspects--young soldiers in the trenches, worried mothers at home, embittered war widows or shell-shocked veterans--are relayed by a '60s-era young woman who brings two great German chroniclers of the war together. As the now-elderly Erich Maria Remarque (All Quiet on the Western Front) and Ernst Jünger (On the Marble Cliffs) meet and spar over the course of several meals, their reminiscences of the Great War present two radically different views. Jünger, for example, says: "I can state without compunction: As the years went by, the flame of the prolonged battle produced an increasingly pure and valiant warrior caste..." Remarque's response is to laugh in Jünger's face:

Come on, Jünger! You sound like a country squire. Cannon fodder quaking in oversized boots--that's what they were. Animals. All right, maybe they were beyond fear, but death never left their minds. So what could they do? Play cards, curse, fantasize about spread-eagled women, and wage war--murder on command, that is. Which took some expertise. They discussed the advantages of the shovel over the bayonet: the shovel not only let you thrust below the chin; it gave you a good solid blow, on the diagonal, say, between neck and shoulder, which then cut right down to the chest, while the bayonet tended to get caught between the ribs and you had to go all the way up to the stomach to pull it loose.
It may be Remarque and Jünger talking, but the prose is pure Grass. The years leading up to and including World War II are narrated by a variety of voices: a communist in a forced-labor camp in 1936; a schoolboy "playing" Spanish Civil War with his classmates in 1937. The events of Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938, become inextricably linked with the November 9, 1989, fall of the Berlin Wall, as a German schoolteacher gets in trouble with the Parent-Teacher Association for his "obsession with the past." Indeed, it is the way Grass mixes past and present, the voices of the famous and the ordinary, that lends such power to My Century; and by the time he brings the reader up to the last weird and wonderful chapter, his century has become ours as well. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Nobel laureate Grass's deft new collection of stories thoroughly and intimately marks the passing of the 20th century. Comprising 100 monologues, each named after a year of the century and spoken by characters who represent a broad spectrum of German society, the work becomes the literary equivalent of a choral symphony. The stories include the reminiscences of ex-Nazis about their activities in 1934; a dead woman's perspective on Germany after the crumble of the Berlin Wall (1999); a delirious letter by the turn-of-the-century poet Else Lasker-Sch?ler (found by the story's narrator in a used book), in which she imagines herself to be 20 years younger than she is (1901); and the author's descriptions of his beleaguered personal life (1987). Several entries establish some continuity from year to year, while other segments clash brilliantly with each other. The volume progresses less like a narrative than like an argument, each year's oral history advancing the thesis that history and personal identity are inextricably linked. Unlike Grass's earlier politically tinged and more willfully surreal work, this novel is consistently realistic, with only a few exceptions. Although the units are always engaging, some of them are drier than others, based upon abstruse but suggestive information, such as the details of munitions manufacture or obscure battle maneuvers. The effect of the episodic narration is a sort of cacophony, but one that is finally resolved into a complex, multipart harmony. Much like the voices echoing in a train station or airport, this cumulative sound reminds the reader of the rich fabric of humankind's collective existence. Grass (The Tin Drum) concludes with the memories of a 103-year-old woman who has been brought back to life by her novelist son for the purposes of his fiction. As she says: "I'm also looking forward to the year 2000. We'll see what comes of it... " (Dec.) FYI: This volume will be published simultaneously around the world.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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It will answer the question and leave the reader wanting to read more.
Randy Keehn
Actually, it forced me to read the book more slowly, savoring the nuance as age, gender and even time frame shift about like sands on a riverbottom.
Dr.Mark
This book is wonderful; it can be enjoyed as a historical narrative, or as brilliant piece of writing.
taking a rest

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By schoeni11 on February 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I have had the opportunity to read this book in its original language, German. I have also lived in Germany most of my life, have my whole family there (yes, i am a FOB), and go back for at least three months every year. Well, you might ask yourself, why is he telling me this? I have a very good reason to do so. Grass has achieved something that I have yet seen to be done by any author. He has perfectly portrayed the mood among Germans during the 20th century. Ask any German of any age. He will tell you the same. If you know nothing about Germany: Read this book! If you think that you know a lot about Germany: Read this book! If you are from Germany or have lived there: Read this book! If you like to read: Read this book! To sum it up: Read this book, because it will broaden your horizon of knowledge.
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34 of 41 people found the following review helpful By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on January 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book for all that seemed to be missing. This book won The Nobel Prize in 1999 for Literature, so what was missing? The book jacket had 3 quotes, all were about the author, and nothing was said about the book. I did not find this work anywhere on any bestseller list. I checked on the "Professional Reviews" and again they were odd. They seem to be of two types; explain nearly the entire book, or like the back of the jacket, they were confined to cryptic remarks about the Author, and on occasion the book itself. There is a huge distinction to be made between 100 "Chapters" and 100 "Stories". The inside jacket designates the enclosed as stories, and I would venture that anyone who reads the book would agree. Some stories share characters, but the brief tale told with shared characters is hardly sequential, this is also the exception to the stories rather than the rule. Historical knowledge of Germany or of the 20th Century is helpful but not required. The story about the USA landing on the moon while told from the perspective of a German, and within that narrator's time, does not require a degree in History. This book is tremendous. The 100 stories almost do read like chapters in spite of the fact they are not necessarily in chronological order. Short stories are notoriously difficult to write. The Author has created 100 of them, placed them within the confines of 100 years, and does so in a manner so clever and subtle, that by book's end, I felt that is what I read, a book, not a collection of short stories. This book is wonderful; it can be enjoyed as a historical narrative, or as brilliant piece of writing. The book is for anyone who likes to read. I just don't understand the lack of interest. It was noted that only 25,000 books were initially printed, that's virtually identical to Angela's Ashes, but a comparison of numbers of readers certainly seems to stop there, and that is truly a shame.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Daniel G. Cole on December 16, 1999
Format: Hardcover
If you don't know German history, you probably won't enjoy this book. However if you do know the history of twentieth century Germany this book is worth the read. Some chapters are better than others. I guess it depends on one's interests. The chapter 1912 describes a young naval officer on a torpedo boot who describes the U-boots he sees. Is this officer Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz? It certainly is later in 1981. For myself, 1914-1918 were the best. They describe a conversation between Ernst Juenger and Erich Maria Remarque. Two famous German authors each with their own individual perspectives on the great war. Absolutely fascinating! Bottom line its an interesting book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on February 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Do not take up this book while flopping into your favourite easy chair thinking you'll pass a pleasant afternoon with a prize-winning author. Gunter Grass has given us a prime example of why awarding him the Nobel Prize was so appropriate. Germany was the focal point of Western history throughout the last ten decades. This collection of observations might act as a text book for the period [although a supplemental reading list is recommended]. Grass' superb presentation of the people living in each era is an ideal starting point for numerous study topics. An outstanding collection of how people felt and reacted to events, woven tightly with their normal daily lives.
With narrators ranging from Kaiser Wilhelm II through working class ladies suffering the effects of runaway inflation to miners striving for better conditions, Grass presents a spectrum of Central European life. His ability in capturing the attitudes of the narrators, whether male, female, young, old, politically left, centre or right is elegant. There are no flaws in any of the portrayals. He's unrestrained in having each character speak honestly, fluently and fully. And those characters catch the flavour of each era in a faultless economy of words. With such a mob as this, meeting and hearing them a few at a time is best. You want to get to know them well, and reflect on their words and views.
Central to any account of 20th Century Germany are two global conflicts. Relating both world wars through the eyes of novelists and journalists is a master stroke. Only a writer of Grass' ability could convey the outlooks of literary giants Remarque and Junger, and do it through the mind of a modern woman.
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