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Tin Drum

4.1 out of 5 stars 386 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 13, 1991
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Editorial Reviews

Japan Tin Drum Import New

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. The Art Of Parties
  2. Talking Drum
  3. Ghosts
  4. Canton
  5. Still Life In Mobile Homes
  6. Visions Of China
  7. Sons Of Pioneers
  8. Cantonese Boy


Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 13, 1991)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Blue Plate Caroline
  • ASIN: B000000I00
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (386 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #587,679 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Richard J. Rundell on November 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Following the generally accepted premise that great novels deserve to be re-translated every generation or so, Breon Mitchell has tackled the most important postwar German novel, and one which had already been translated by Ralph Manheim brilliantly into English not long after it appeared in German in 1959.

But now a half-century has passed, and Mitchell's skills are awesome, indeed. He has leapt courageously into the deep end of Guenter Grass' linguistic inventiveness, some of which looks at first as if it will defy translation at all. But Mitchell has succeeded beyond any bilingual reader's expectations. THE TIN DRUM is still far richer in its original German, but Mitchell has rendered its wealth anew, and those readers who have yet to discover this masterpiece in English will be rewarded.

Dr. Richard J. Rundell
Professor of German
New Mexico State University
11 Comments 107 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Western literature is full of what Germans call "bildungsroman", that is, the story of a young man's (or woman's)intellectual and emotional growth, often told from the main character's own voice. This kind of novel has adopted innumerable shapes and styles through history, and certainly this one is, so far for me, the strangest and one of the best.
It is hard to summarize the plot, as it is mainly the diverse and extreme experiences of Oskar Matzerath's life. Born in 1924 in Danzig, itself a unique and troubled city, Oskar decides at age three not to grow up anymore. Or does he simply has an illness of the tyroid gland, as he hints at some point? It doesn't matter, precisely because that moment starts the style of the whole book: all the time, terrible things are happening to Oskar, to his family, to his city, to his nation and to his century, but we see everything only through the distorted glass of this unique character's view.
First he tells us about his ancestors and the life they led in pre-war German Poland. Then we know the story of his parents, the infidelity of his mother and other disturbing and often sordid events. His community starts to fall apart as the Nazis rise to power. Then the Nazis come and destroy the city, phisically and spiritually. Oskar spends the whole war in Danzig as well as wandering through France and Belgium as part of a grotesque midget-troupée. After the war, they flee Poland for Düsseldorf, where he is employed in very different jobs: as a tomb engraver, painters' model, jazz drum player. The chapter which describes the journey by train is simply horrible and scaring, as the chapter on his emotional disappointing is sad. The end is strange, confusing but full of hope.
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Format: Hardcover
I have been meaning to read this book since it came out in 1959, but only did so now. My reason for delaying was that the reviews I had read of the book made it sound unappealing to me. Why did I want to read the unrealistic ramblings of an insane dwarf?
Having been impressed with Mr. Grass's recent work, Crabwalk, I finally decided to give The Tin Drum a try. I'm glad I did. Let me explain why.
In my studies of the Nazi era, I was always struck by comments that observers from that time made about how banal the evil of it all was. Yet much of the propaganda from that period (such as The Triumph of the Will) that we can see today makes the Nazis seem like mythic figures. What were the observers trying to say? I finally felt like I understood the point through reading The Tin Drum. Reading about distant battles while living in Germany before the bombing became great seems a lot like reading about attacks on coalition troops in Iraq now. Going to party meetings seems a lot like how people here go to lodge meetings now.
In the first 100 pages, I kept wondering why Mr. Grass had chosen to write the novel in the form of an autobiography of an insane dwarf pretending to have a mental age of 3 who had been convicted of a murder he did not commit. Eventually, it hit me. He needed a narrator who could not be considered complicit in what the Nazis did, or we could not trust his voice. In addition, how can you portray banal evils as insane unless you see them through the eyes of an "insane" person who makes all too much sense? Once I accepted the brilliance (perhaps even the inevitability of his choice), I settled back and really began to enjoy the story.
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Format: Audio CD
Tin Drum" was the album where Japan finally hit their stride-- the two strongest forces in the band had found their own voices-- David Sylvian's compositions combined drastically separated influences like Roxy Music, Erik Satie, and Eastern Asian traditional musics to form something wholly other, supported in large part by the unique, rubbery fretless bass playing of Mick Karn. Even at this early point in his career, no one sounded like Karn. And with the departure of Rob Dean, there was little concession for guitar playing-- when its present, its more atmospheric and tasteful-- a radical departure from the N.Y. Dolls glam of their first album, which came out just three years prior.

But taste and atmosphere and arrangements are really the key here-- consider the album's standout-- "Ghosts". Steve Jansen (a master of understatement at the percussion chair) plays a simple marimba line, under which Sylvian and synth man Richard Barbieri play simple hazes. While Sylvian's voice had not yet finished developing, his passionate croon is emotional and effecting. Contrast this piece withe the traditional Chinese sounds of "Canton"-- which could have been written (and for that matter performed) centuries before were it not for the squeaky presence of Karn's bass.

Much of the rest of the album is dancey rhythmically, with Jansen maintaining understated pumped up beats and Karn digging way deep into a groove and producing several stunning bass lines ("Talking Drum", "Still Life in Mobile Homes", "Visions of China"). But to my ears, the other standout on the record is "Sons of Pioneers"-- similar in mood and feel to "Ghosts", cowritten by Karn and Sylvian, this one is driven by a haunting bass line and tribal percussion and again shows the band has mastered this dark mood.
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