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Cat and Mouse

4.2 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0848801120
ISBN-10: 0848801121
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Grass is one of the master fabulists of our age" -- Michale Ratcliffe The Times "Grass is probably the nearest thing we have to a certain genius in living novelists" -- Marghanita Laski "Grass is one of the few great writers in Europe today" Sunday Telegraph --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 127 pages
  • Publisher: Amereon Limited (June 1, 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0848801121
  • ISBN-13: 978-0848801120
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,853,499 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Grass's greatest strength as a writer is his ability to creep up on his story obliquely, to give the reader the details not so much in a linear fashion, but through a form of interior monologue. This is also his greatest weakness, I think, and it's also safe to say that "Katz und Maus" is the weakest link in the "Danzig Trilogy."

This is not to say that the book is completely without value. Grass's character, Joachim Mahlke, is a fascinating grotesque every bit as memorable as Oskar from "The Tin Drum," and the Boll Prize-winner's writing hums with a poetic beauty that can be quite profound at times, but this short book is a bit too abortive and muddled for my taste (this might be the only book I can think of that slips from first- to second- to third-person at the narrator's whim).

Skip this one and read "Im Krebsgang" / "Crabwalk" instead.
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