Peeling the Onion
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Peeling the Onion

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  739 ratings  ·  90 reviews
In this extraordinary memoir, Nobel Prize-winning author Gunter Grass remembers his early life, from his boyhood in a cramped two-room apartment in Danzig through the late 1950s, when The Tin Drum was published.

During the Second World War, Grass volunteered for the submarine corps at the age of fifteen but was rejected; two years later, in 1944, he was instead drafted int...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published June 5th 2008 by Vintage (first published 2006)
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Shane
Reading this intriguing memoir, I wondered why Grass wrote it. To expiate himself from the crimes of the Waffen SS to whom he had been attached at the tender age of 17? To pin down events before a fading memory lost them forever? Or to take the high road and cling to the claim that he never fired a shot during the war, but was shot and bombed to hell and back as a member of a defeated German army in the dying months of WWII, and therefore deserving to hang on to his Nobel Prize for Literature th...more
Jonfaith
The Goodreads/Amazon imbroglio only shocked me by being so predictable. Not to sound like a hungover Schopenhauer, but decay and disagreeable ends are to be expected, aren't they? When Herr Grass acknowledged that he'd been in the SS, my knees did feel weak. I did call most everything into question, then I kept on. Grass was in NYC shortly thereafter, he gave a reading from Peeling The Onion and my best friend Joel attended, bought me copy and had the author sign such. I was moved by his memoir....more
S©aP
Non conoscevo Grass e non è stato amore a prima vista. La forma barocca e pesante. Un compiacimento lessicale a volte stucchevole; altre disgustoso. Metafore troppo liriche. Periodare lungo, articolato, complesso. Insistenti domande retoriche. Una pressante autoreferenzialità, da scrittore affermato. Qualche immagine efficace e originale. Lo sguardo su una Germania post-bellica, e povera, resta l'unica occasione curiosa di questo testo; per conoscere. La seconda metà del libro, più scorrevole, n...more
Helen
I read this book aboard an El Al flight to Israel, where those of us who knew and loved my mother were gathering at the cemetery in Beit Shemesh to dedicate the monument in her memory.

Mom lived through many of the same events that Mr. Grass describes--though from the other side of the border. While he was idolizing Nazi submarine commanders and singing songs with the Hitler Youth, while he was enthusiastically volunteering to join the German Navy, Mom was running for her life, escaping from SS...more
Stephanie Griffin
Apr 29, 2008 Stephanie Griffin rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Günter Grass fans.
Günter Grass is one of the best novelists to come out of Germany. In PEELING THE ONION, Grass’ memoir of his life up until the 1959 publishing of his first major novel, THE TIN DRUM, he reflects on the objects, people, and situations that ultimately wove their way into his stories. As in the peeling of an onion, one layer leads to the next, but all are part and parcel of the whole, which is his life.

It helps if one is familiar with Grass’ writings before reading this memoir. I myself have read T...more
Lance Catedral
Overcome with emotions, I have a hard time putting his memoir down. I am lost in my reading. In some parts I'm saddened because he has abandoned his belief in a personal God with finality. Curiosity also gets hold of me, especially when he talks of his adolescent urges and liaisons, his ambitions, the books and paintings that have transformed him. But I'm depressed when he talks about the war, or when he chooses to skip some very important parts, like what happened to his family while he was awa...more
Scott
Going into this biographical book, I was quite interested to see how he made sense of his involvement in Nazi Germany's last stand, having thought his treatment of the themes of German guilt post-WWII in the novel CRABWALK were rather nuanced and abject. I come away from this biographical work with a decidedly different reaction.

Grass was admittedly young (16) and a participant for only a bumbling week (during which he seems to have forgotten pretty much everything that happened). So I suppose...more
Ginny
This was such a beautiful book. After reading it I have a much more vivid picture of what it was like to be a German foot soldier in WWII. I was very inspired by his depiction of his own shame and guilt about his role, and at the end of reading this book I felt more able to look at my own past.

One interesting thing was I read this book at the same time as I was reading an autobiography of a Viennese Jewish man of about the same age. They both felt very proud of their German heritage and of Germ...more
Neva
Из архивите - рецензия за в. "Гласове".

Нито "Разпни го!", нито "Осанна!"
"Да люспиш лука", Гюнтер Грас, превод Любомир Илиев, "Атлантис – КЛ", 2007 г.

"Да люспиш лука" е публикуваната миналата година автобиография на Гюнтер Грас, заради която се надигнаха гласове Нобеловата му награда за литература да бъде отнета за назидание и която своевременно излиза у нас, в престижната поредица "Вълшебната планина" на "Атлантис-КЛ".

Обема годините от 1939-та (когато Грас е на 12, обича да чете исторически рома...more
Mark Lisac
Master storytelling about one of the biggest events of the last century, from the inside. Yes, it reads like the product of a wilful egotist, but he's also a top-rank artist, so the surprise of that is lessened.
There are at least three layers here: recollections of being swept along in massive historical events; reflections on what those events meant and on Grass's personal role in them; the universal story of a young man (and the book is written from an entirely male perspective) growing up and...more
Ian Kemp
This is a well written, brave and honest introspection from a great writer. Gunter Grass's memory is an onion - when he ask questions of the past it is necessary to peel layers upon layers, sometimes to find that the relevant layer has nothing written on it. What is written are the early adventures of a human straw blowing in the storm winds of history - from his earliest days playing with grenade fragments in the streets of Danzig, to his experiences in the Hitler youth. In the SS during the la...more
Linh Hoang
Peeling the Onion is a autobiography written by Gunter Grass, a German novelist. Grass has been through a lot in his life and this book narrates his life from his young ages to the time when he wrote some of his finest novels. This book included Grass' thoughts about his past, his reflections and personal thoughts he had while writing his books.

Autobiographies--I think-- don't have a main message or a moral usually. These types of books are to tell the reader about the author and maybe the re...more
John Winters
Memory remembers in frozen moments, cross-stitched together across time periods, places and people…a layered jumble of experiences. I thought Grass captured this both as a literary device and in how his simple recollection worked to sculpt the essence of his life experience.

‘Peeling the onion’ is a phrase I’ve previously heard in rooms of 12-step recovery, and seems an apt metaphor for both the recollection of events as well as the coming to terms with the difficult and the cherished moments in...more
Guido
Natuurlijk is “De rokken van de ui”, Günter Grass’ autobiografie, een fantastisch tijdsdocument. Maar vind ik het ook echt goed? De proef op de som is: zou ik het iemand aanraden? Zou ik het cadeau doen? Nee dus. Krijgt van mij 3,5 sterren (vooral vanwege het ronduit indrukwekkende deel over Grass’ wedervaren tijdens en vlak na WOII), maar toch geen 4 (vanwege het veel minder boeiende tweede deel na de bevrijding, en ook – meer in het algemeen – vanwege een stijl die ik ronduit vermoeiend vind:...more
Lavinia
I bought this book long before I knew that Gunter Grass was a writer that I would both love and hate at the same time. I loved his tin drum, but, for me, his century was probably one of the most boring and irrelevant books I've read recently. I had no plans to read his biography any time soon, but I am happy that I decided to give it a try: it's full of life, full of passion and Gunter Grass is such a great storyteller that reading it almost feels like reading a real novel.

You'll be ashamed alo...more
John
A young teenage boy facing uncommon times and without any insights into the geopolitical events swirling about him. When adults, diplomats and politicians, either couldn’t or wouldn’t recognize the fire engulfing them how could Günter Grass, as an average teenager, be expected to recognize them? Restricted to life in his hometown and his family’s small store, his cares focused on those of any adolescent boy struggling within the raging scene of his own emerging manhood. At 15 he wanted to be a s...more
Nicholas Whyte
A fascinating autobiography - though in fact it covers only the years from the outbreak of the second world war, in the late 1930s, to Grass's first marriage 20 years later. I don't think you can read it without also reading or having read The Tin Drum, which has a lot of autobiographical elements in it, here carefully untangled and explained. Grass of course did not have the option of not growing up; he ended up rapidly inducted into the SS as the Eastern Front crumbled, hints at being interned...more
Jafar
Gunter Grass’s autobiography. This was a very interesting read after The Tin Drum. You slowly see how some events of the novel were influenced by his own life, and how many characters of that novel were based on the real people in his life. I couldn’t help comparing this book with Nabokov’s Speak Memory. Nabokov’s autobiography mostly disappointed me in spite of the good writing. This was far better. Grass tells the story of his eventful life in some really great writing.

Grass caused a controver...more
Kevin
I had read the excerpt, "How I Learned Fear," in the New Yorker last summer, and was therefore somewhat prepared for the harrowing journey detailed in this memoir: from favored son in Danzig, to Jungvolk member, to Waffen SS gunner, to POW in a Russian camp and beyond--to odd-jobber, art student, and, eventually, writer of The Tin Drum. What I was less prepared for was the harrowing and heartbreaking interior journey that the writing of this book clearly entailed, documented with precision, grac...more
Rachel
I have to start by confessing that I haven't read anything by Gunter Grass. My first (and lasting) impression of this memoir was that it seemed surprisingly bare and unadorned; maybe precisely because I am unfamiliar with Grass’s work, and maybe unreasonably, I was expecting more speculation and introspection from him just on the basis of the fact that I know he is a writer of poetry and fiction. What fascinates me about it now that I’ve finished it, though, boils down to one line which comes to...more
Mario Liesens
For a large part, "peeling the onion" is the book behind the books. Here you'll find out how Grass came to write The Danziger Trilogie. There was much to do about the fact that in this book, Grass admits to have volunteered for the Waffen SS. Big deal, if you ask me. At that time it was a normal thing to do.
Written at an age where memories tend to fade, there's gaps and more than once Grass admits he simply doesn't remember anymore. Maybe there's stuff he doesn't want to remember.

I like Günter'...more
Editorial Alfaguara
�El recuerdo se asemeja a una cebolla que quisiera ser pelada para dejar al descubierto lo que, letra por letra, puede leerse en ella.� Pelando la cebolla es un extraordinario ejercicio de memoria en el que G�nter Grass se pregunta sin autocomplacencia y con absoluta sinceridad por los sucesos que marcaron los primeros a�os de su vida. Desde su ni�ez en Danzig, su incorporaci�n a la Waffen SS, su trabajo como minero sobre los escombros de aquella Alemania de posguerra, hasta su exilio en Par�s,...more
Mike
Much more important than the controversy surrounding this book is the essential humanization of people who are often thought of as, out and out, evil. Grass admits to having been in the SS, but also admits to having never fired a gun once, his subsequent shame from being in the party, and his inability to correctly remember many aspects of his life. He also, however, fleshes out the sheer impossibility of explaining a "why" due to the enormous conflicting influences of the self and the time. As...more
Pat
Feb 23, 2008 Pat rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: anyone
There was tremendous pre-publication and after publication about some of the things brought up on Gunter Grass' memoir. He was in the Hitler Youth, inducted into the Waffen SS toward the end of the war. As a young man of that age, he admits that he chose not to or did not delve deep enough to recognize that the Holocaust was underway. Apparently, these were things that were not previously known and have produced consternation among Germans at least. Well, too bad. We are all human and, when we a...more
Nick
This was the most literary and the least exact (auto)biography I read in the last few years (to be cautious with statements) //:o) .... You have to love how Grass finds (in this book too) intelligent ways not to say things (or just sayin' half stories). He is just as ambiguous when he wishes as was Oskar, his hero - while doing his tin drum thing, observing certain things while ignoring others.

I think I had read about the WWII from a Nazi/German perspective before, although those novels had a ce...more
Sean Carman
I really enjoyed this book. Grass understands that memoir is fictionalized autobiography, and so he writes in the middle distance between fact and fiction. There is no doubt that the central events are true, but he's less sure of the details. He covers his youthful membership in Hitler's army, specifically the Waffen SS, his life as an art student, his first marriage, and finally his first attempts to write stories and prose. When memory seems to fail him, he speaks about himself in the third pe...more
Zöe Zhai
Well, I consider Grass as a hero. Peeling the Oion is the book which attractive to me, I went different places to get this book. No book can get this treat from me. When I know Grass once was a member of the Waffen SS, words from his former works come into my mind. Feeling both sad and confused. After read From Guilty to Shame, Auschutz and after, I awared something really significant. However, this book also portrayed Grass's personal life during the World War Two. It is interesting when you re...more
globulon
Grass did a good job of presenting himself as human. He confronts his own blindness, selfishness, and vanities, as well as delivering a very readable account of his development as an artist. He treats the events of his life as learning experiences which seems to me to be a perfectly defensible approach, even to something as morally difficult as his participation in the Nazi state and military. I never got the sense that he was attempting to mitigate his own, or German guilt. He discusses the rel...more
Martina Keller
I really enjoyed this book. His candid and unspoiled memories of wartime and postwar Germany, particularly from the perspective of a displaced person (DP) was very revealing and complemented in so many ways the stories of my own father, who spent the immediate postwar years as a DP in devastated Germany. Gunter Grass is a few years older than my father, so his stories related a somewhat more adult perspective, but one with a definite youthful edge. Having read my share of autobiographies, I foun...more
Priyam Goswami-Choudhury
Fantastic book. Such a beautiful work. He'll make you laugh when he writes about Genoveva the goat and he makes you cry when he grieves for his dead mother. Never an easy read as he keeps straying to the abstract side of his memory and keeps inviting dead people to dine with him, but you can get lost in his words. You can almost feel the pain of a guilt six decades old. You can choose not to believe all the the stories about him for he says memory 'deceives' and that being the 'capricious lady'...more
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Günter Wilhelm Grass is a Nobel Prize-winning German author and playwright.
He was born in the Free City of Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland). Since 1945, he has lived in West Germany (now Germany), but in his fiction he frequently returns to the Danzig of his childhood.
He is best known for his first novel, The Tin Drum, a key text in European magic realism. His works frequently have a strong left wing,...more
More about Günter Grass...
The Tin Drum (The Danzig Trilogy, #1) Cat and Mouse (The Danzig Trilogy, #2) Crabwalk Dog Years (The Danzig Trilogy, #3) The Flounder

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