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Peeling the Onion (Autobiografical Trilogy #1)

3.75  ·  Rating Details ·  1,106 Ratings  ·  122 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
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published June 25th 2007 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2006)
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Apr 13, 2015 Jonfaith rated it it was amazing
They had tried doing it by themselves in her room with a cheap onion, but it wasn't the same. You needed an audience. It was so much easier to cry in company. It gave you a real sense of brotherhood in sorrow when to the right and left of you and in the gallery overhead your fellow students were all crying their hearts out. The Tin Drum

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 expec
Dec 09, 2015 Helen rated it really liked it
Gunter Grass died last night, and I am in mourning. Discovering his writing was like discovering a new uncle, one who spent WW2 on the wrong side of the war.

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 headstone 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 commande
Nov 05, 2010 Shane rated it really liked it
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
Dec 12, 2015 Ava rated it liked it
اولین کتابی بود که از گونتر گراس دست گرفتم و نمی تونم بگم انتظارات من رو از یه برنده ی نوبل بر آورده کرد. شاید یکی از دلایل اش اتو بیوگرافی بودن این کتاب بود. نا خود آگاه توو خوندن اتو بیوگرافی قضاوت میاد توو ذهنم و راجع به نویسنده اش قضاوت می کنم. شاید به این دلیل که انتظارات زیادی از همچین آدمی تو ذهنم دارم.هر چند از صمیم قلب شجاعت اش رو قابل تحسین می دونم.

"در حال کندن پوست پیاز" نه کتاب پر کششی بود و نه کتاب خوبی. کتاب متوسط و قابل تحملی بود که ارزش یه بار خوندن رو داشت. این که از اول از جنگ
Mohsen Rajabi
همزمان باید به این کتاب هر پنج نمره را داد: هم ضعیف است، هم بد نیست، هم خوب است، هم واقعا خوب است و هم شاهکار.

کتابی است سخت خوان. به شدت سخت خوان. در زیر بارش کمرتان هم می شود. سرتان درد می گیرد و چشمانتان به سوزش می افتد.
مدام باید با کتاب راه بیایید. تحملش کنید، تحملش کنید و تحملش کنید.
تجربه عجیبی بود برای من، خواندن این کتاب. نویسنده در حال کندن پوست پیاز است، و شمای خواننده هم باید این پیاز را پوست بکنید. لایه لایه کنید، و مهم نیست چند بار این پیاز را کنار می گذارید تا بروید چشمانتان را بشویی
Erwin Maack
Jun 07, 2015 Erwin Maack rated it really liked it
"Asi Nisi Masa."

Foi essa a resposta que a vidente deu quando "leu"a mente de Guido, o protagonista daquela história (Oito e meio de Federico Fellini). E daí por diante vivemos todos na tentativa de resolver esse enigma. E o mesmo se pode dizer de a "Rosebud" de O. Wells.
Com Günter Grass não ocorre exatamente uma palavra enigmática, a memória se apresenta como uma cebola a ser despelada. É o âmbar que lhe é lançado pelo mar Báltico nas praias de sua Gdansk que funcionará como leitor da memória do
Almost gave up on mister Grass and his most peculiar style of writing, especially during the rather cumbersome part about his war experiences. In the end though, I feel like this is a very special book by a very interesting author. Grass has lived an artists life which I imagine might be virtually impossible to live nowadays, living through the worst of times only to come out on top through the pursuit of his many hungers, which include women, art and food.

Throughout the book, Grass is peeling h
Apr 15, 2013 Lance rated it it was amazing
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
Stephanie Griffin
Apr 29, 2008 Stephanie Griffin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 31, 2012 S©aP rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 26, 2014 Andrew added it
Shelves: memoir
The modern American memoir has decayed into mawkish, simpering shopworn confessionalism-- the sort of thing that was embarrassing back when Sylvia Plath scrawled "Daddy, Daddy, you bastard I'm through," and now is almost beneath reproach.

Fortunately, the fine tradition of the memoir as a catalyst for deep introspection and irony and exploration of larger themes is alive and well in Herr Grass' version. Here was a guy who did it all, and has to face the fact, again and again, that for a bit, he w
Zach Smith
Dec 17, 2014 Zach Smith rated it it was amazing
This book is nothing more than truly remarkable and fascinating. Gunter Grass is the Nobel Laureate and author of the world famous “The Tin Drum.” In my personal opinion he is undoubtedly the best author to write in the German language, and “The Tin Drum” (read almost 5 years ago) remains in my personal opinion the best novel written in any foreign language. “Peeling the Onion” is not a novel but a memoir, an autobiography. In our American schools, we learn a lot about WWII and the Holocaust, bu ...more
بهمن بهمن
Nov 25, 2014 بهمن بهمن rated it liked it
سال دو هزار و شش، وقتی گونتر گراس، نویسندهی معروف آلمان و خالق رمان مبهوت کنندهی «طبل حلبی،» و برندهی جایزهی ادبی نوبل، به گذشتهاش نگریست، عنوان اتوبیوگرافیاش را گذاشت: «در حال کندن پوست پیاز.» کتابی که بر خلاف چیزی که در اولین نگاه فکر میکردی، جنجال برانگیز شد – مخصوصا بعد از ترجمه به انگلیسی. گونتر گراس در این کتاب اعتراف کرده که با تمام وجود، در کودکی و نوجوانی عضو «سازمان جوانان جزب نازی» بوده و بعدها، در اواخر جنگ و در حدود شانزده سالهگی، به عنوان سرباز «اساس» به جنگ رفته است: «... که اگر ه ...more
Apr 30, 2015 Albertine67 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this when it first came out in translation, and loved it, and decided to re-read it as part of a celebration of Grass' work following his death. It is every bit as marvellous as I remembered. The first half of the book has attracted particular attention because of his recollections about joining the Hitler Youth and SS. However, the rest of his memoir is just as compelling, giving us an insight into his development as an artist (in sculpture/drawing/painting as well as writing), which is ...more
Jul 20, 2008 Mary rated it liked it
Almost insufferably self-indulgent but not quite,
so I kept reading...I learned to skip the "product-
placement" tie-ins with his books, and--for all
the horrific historic connections in his young-Nazi
life--finally found most interesting his learning
to be a gourmet cook while imprisoned on a diet
of crusts and thin gruel.
Apr 10, 2016 Sergei_kalinin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for_soul
Смешанные чувства от прочтения... Грасс, несомненно, большой мастер современной прозы, заслуженно получивший Нобелевку. Читать было очень интересно, поучительно и познавательно. Главное (для меня):

- Вновь это понимание как страшна война, какой жуткий след она оставляет на человеческих судьбах, семьях, народах, культуре и образе жизни.

- Мир - это зеркало, в котором всё возвращается. Когда Грасс описывает свою службу в армии в последние дни войны, когда из ближайшего леска выползли Т-34 и начали
I'm not a massive fan of Grass the novelist. I've read The Tin Drum, when I was probably too young and inexperienced to appreciate it, but found the character of Oskar so insufferable that I remember it being really a chore. Grass himself is more Oskar than I'd hoped. Anyway, I've read so much, as have we all, about the suffering of Jews and other groups during the WW2 and its lead-up, and have long been curious to read about Grass's experience on the other side. That part of this book, the firs ...more
Mark Lisac
Aug 11, 2013 Mark Lisac rated it really liked it
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
Nov 07, 2008 Scott rated it did not like it
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
Dec 26, 2008 Ginny rated it it was amazing
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
صديق الحكيم
هو العيب في الترجمة ولا في الأصل
Cinabru Hoffmann
Jan 21, 2015 Cinabru Hoffmann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: varia
“Firma Henkel, cu sediul in Dusseldorf, a produs un detergent pe nume Persil (…) Cu ajutorul acestuia, nu putini au fost aceia care si-au spalat rahatul brun din biografie. De acum inainte nepatati, isi savurau slujbele si demnitatile”.

Sincer chiar nu vreau sa mai aud de scandalul cu Gunter Grass cel nazist, cu Grass care a pozat toata viata in democrat si a recunoscut abia octogenar ca a facut parte din Waffen SS, ca a provocat furia intregii Germanii pentru a-si vinde primul volum al memoriilo
Nate H.
May 01, 2015 Nate H. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 15
The other day I listened to an interview with the american writer Charles Baxter where he said of Bulgakov's Master and Margarita ''it's one of those books that has Everything in it''. That phrase came to my mind when I finished this one by Gunter Grass. It's as if is a big container where Everything is thrown in. Un libro TOTAL.
Feb 15, 2016 Aaron rated it it was amazing
Being the grandchild of Dutch immigrants who barely survived occupation in the Netherlands it's difficult for me to read something where the narrator openly states his, not just affiliation with, but allegiance to Hitler and Nazi mindset. It's clear, however, Grass wrote this memoir to come clean. He demonstrates the pain that has come with years of retrospection. I have no doubt he was ignorant to many atrocities committed. And he describes his regret at not being more affected by it when he wa ...more
Frances West
Jan 03, 2015 Frances West rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-reads
This was a remembering of the past and the influence it has on the future. An intriguing read and Gunter Grass peels back the layers of his past .
As an adolescent growing up in Danzig during the Nazi era he speaks of how he was silent not out of fear , hiw he felt no shame .......there was simply silence on his part. And yet it all has a influence on the write he was to become. Read it , it will ask you many questions not just about how you would have dealt with growing up during this time but a
Ljiljana Jelaska
Odlična knjiga, pisana u formi memoara. Ovo "guljenje" duše, sloj po sloj,jednog od najpoznatijih pisaca današnjice, koji je stjecajem okolnosti, kao dijete, bio član Hitlerove mladeži, rijetko će kojeg čitatelja ostaviti ravnodušnim. Osobno smatram kako gospodin Grass nema razloga za ispriku, jer vrijeme u kojem je rođen i u kojemu je rastao, bilo je vrijeme nacizma i on tu, kao dijete, ništa nije mogao promijeniti. Možda je upravo to razlog njegove potrebe da pred čitateljem ogoli dušu na nači ...more
Billy Sheppard
Dec 03, 2015 Billy Sheppard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a great resource for any reader of Grass. It is possible to trace the origins of many elements of "The Tin Drum" to events in Grass' life and, having done so, to make them richer. I listened to this memoir before listening to Blackstone Audio's version of "The Tin Drum." I'm glad I happened to read these two books in that order. Novels come from the events of a life and are transformed very often in literature. "The Tin Drum" rang out with articulate magic after reading this memoir. ...more
Apr 26, 2016 Esther rated it liked it
It seems poignant, and appropriate somehow, for me to be reading this book during 2016's April, a very eventful and difficult month for Günter Grass, in 1945. Sixty nine years ago, Günter Grass, a very young SS soldier, was engaged in a cross-country struggle westward ahead of the advancing Soviet Army, while at the same moment my own father was struggling westward toward Patton's army, away from Stalag XVIIB in Krems, Austria, where he had been held as a POW for over a year. My heart hurts for ...more
Lavinia Petrache
Nov 24, 2015 Lavinia Petrache rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, selfies
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
I still don’t know what to think of this. This is the first biography I’ve read and I can’t even recall why I bought it in the first place, because I’ve never read anything by this author before and that, by itself, is a bit weird… who would read an auto-biography by someone who doesn’t capture as much of your interest as the woman who sells you bread every day? I believe that is one of the main points that weakened the possible emotional link such a book is supposed to convey. I do admit Grass ...more
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Günter Wilhelm Grass was a Nobel Prize-winning German novelist, poet, playwright, illustrator, graphic artist, and sculptor.
He was born in the Free City of Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland). Since 1945, he lived in West Germany, but in his fiction he frequently returned to the Danzig of his childhood. He always identified himself as a Kashubian.

He is best known for his first novel, "The Tin Drum" (1959)
More about Günter Grass...

Other Books in the Series

Autobiografical Trilogy (3 books)
  • The Box: Tales from the Darkroom
  • Grimms Wörter. Eine Liebeserklärung

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“Memory likes to play hide-and-seek, to crawl away. It tends to hold forth, to dress up, often needlessly. Memory contradicts itself; pedant that it is, it will have its way.” 2 likes
“Воспоминания основываются на прежних воспоминаниях и рождают воспоминания новые. Это и делает память похожей на луковицу, у которой каждая снятая чешуйка обнажает давно забытые вещи вплоть до молочных зубов самого раннего детства, а острый нож способствует особому эффекту: порезанная на кусочки луковица гонит из глаз слезу, замутняя взгляд.” 0 likes
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