A true tour de force. I have a feeling that much as you must read Dostoyevsky to understand Russia or Joyce to understand Ireland, you must read The T...moreA true tour de force. I have a feeling that much as you must read Dostoyevsky to understand Russia or Joyce to understand Ireland, you must read The Tin Drum to understand Poland, especially Poland during and in the aftermath of the World Wars. Here we have Poland as an exiled dwarven drummer in a mental institution; bastard grandchild of Kashubian potato farmers and emigrant arsonists, bastard child of lapsed Catholics and cowardly nationalists, raised by German Nazis, refusing to grow past the age of three and yet hiding incredible powers to condemn and redeem. I can only think that when Lech Wałęsa organized the Gdańsk shipyard workers, Gunter Grass smiled to see Oskar drumming again, with his zersingen revived.
"We didn't leave. Instead Herr Matzerath lifted his drum as the green hats opened their coats and swung out their tommy guns-- at that same moment a nearly full moon with only a slight dent broke through the clouds, causing the edges of the clouds to gleam metallically like the jagged edge of a tin can-- and Herr Matzerath began desperately stirring his sticks on similar but undamaged tin. It sounded strange and yet familiar. Again and again the letter O rounded itself: lost, not yet lost, is not yet lost, Poland is not yet lost! But that was poor Viktor's voice, he knew the words to Herr MAtzerath's drum: Poland is not yet lost, as long as we still live. And even the green hats seemed to know that rhythm, for they cowered behind their metal guns outlined in moonlight, as well they might, since the march Herr Matzerath and poor Viktor struck up in my mother's garden plot awakened the Polish Cavalry. The moon may have helped as drum, moon, and the cracked voice of the nearsighted Viktor called forth all those stamping horsemen from the soil: hooves thundered, nostrils snorted, spurs jingled, stallions whinnied, hurrah, hooray!... but not the least, nothing thundered, snorted, jingled, whinnied, nothing cried hurrah, hooray; silently they glided over the harvested fields outside Gerresheim, yet still it was a squadron of Polish uhlans, for red and white like Herr Matzerath's lacquered drum the pennants tugged at their lances, no, didn't tug, but floated instead, just as the whole squadron floated beneath the moon, perhaps came from the moon, wheeled to the left toward our garden, floated, seemed neither flesh nor blood, yet floated, like homemade toys for children, conjured up, akin perhaps to the knotworks Herr Matzerath's keeper makes from string: a knotted Polish cavalry silent yet thundering, bloodless, fleshless, yet Polish and unbridled, heading right toward us, so that we threw ourselves to the ground, submitted to the moon and Poland's squadron as they swept over my mother's garden, over all the other carefully tended gardens, but laying waste to none, took only poor Viktor and his executioners, and were lost in the open fields beneath the moon-- lost, not yet lost, riding off eastward, toward Poland, toward the far side of the moon."(less)
**spoiler alert** I was actually a little disappointed in the final book of what was otherwise a wonderful trilogy. The new character of Chancey was a...more**spoiler alert** I was actually a little disappointed in the final book of what was otherwise a wonderful trilogy. The new character of Chancey was a major drag on the overall tone of the story. I believe Richter was doing this to make a point about how the current generation views past generations, but Chancey was so negative as to drag down the tone of the story as a whole. Additionally, the character's issues were finally resolved in literally the last three pages of the book: not quite the catharsis I was looking for from such a negative character. As a whole though, the series was very well written and researched, and paints a vivid picture of the settlement of the early frontier and America's journey from colony to nation.(less)