Nobel Prize goes to Grass

Guenter Grass, Germany's best-known novelist, won the 1999 Nobel Prize for literature yesterday.

The Swedish Academy in Stockholm called Mr. Grass's first novel, "The Tin Drum," "One of the enduring literary works of the 20th century."

Published in 1959, "The Tim Drum" recounts the life of a dwarf who claims that as a child he decided not to grow as the scourge of Nazism spread through Germany.

The book is the first of Grass's Danzig Trilogy, which also includes "Cat and Mouse," and "Dog Years."

With startling black humor and a rich style of magical realism, the novels explore Germany's reaction to the rise of fascism and the national burden of guilt after World War II.

"He comes to grips with the enormous task of reviewing contemporary history by recalling the disavowed and the forgotten: the victims, losers and lies that people wanted to forget because they had once believed them," the academy said.

Although academy spokesman Horace Engdahl said the author's controversial political views didn't affect the academy's decision, Grass's liberal social criticism is bound to receive increased attention now that he's a Nobel laureate.

In 1990, he criticized Chancellor Helmut Kohl's handing of the reunification of East and West Germany. Two years ago, he denounced Germany's conservative refugee policy as "democratically covered barbarism."

Last year's prize went to another outspoken social critic, Portuguese novelist Jose Saramago.

Grass's newest book, "My Century," will be published by Harcourt Brace on Dec. 1. The book contains a story for every year in the 20th century.

Grass is the fifth consecutive European to win the $1 million prize and the seventh German.

The academy was founded in 1896 by a bequest from Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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