Michael Onyebuchi Eze, Katja Wal | JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies
Günter Grass’s Die Blechtrommel presented a radical break with established conventions of post-war German writing. While its early critical reception in Germany tended to concentrate on this rupture, the novel was internationally read in the context of an older European tradition. Comparisons with an international literary canon were used to make the novel and its dubious hero more palatable to a potentially sceptical readership. References to major writers from Rabelais to Joyce and to the picaresque tradition in particular appear in reviews from France to Finland. By positioning Grass’s novel in the framework of the European canon the early reception established a pattern that in the long run influenced Grass’s own writing. In his subsequent work reference to canonical traditions becomes ever more visible as he unfolds dialogues with major authors of the past. By identifying with these authors Grass positioned himself as one among equals in the literary Parnassus. Having established his own international reputation and thereby contributed to enhancing the reputation of post-war German writing as a whole, his later writing increasingly paid tribute to a specifically German literary heritage.