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The Flounder

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  1,335 ratings  ·  79 reviews
It all begins in the Stone Age, when a talking fish is caught by a fisherman at the very spot where millennia later Grass's home town, Danzig, will arise. Like the fish, the fisherman is immortal, and down through the ages they move together. As Grass blends his ingredients into a powerful brew, he shows himself at the peak of his linguistic inventiveness. Translated by Ra ...more
Paperback, 547 pages
Published 1989 by Mariner (first published 1977)
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3.78  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,335 ratings  ·  79 reviews

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Jun 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: samizdat
One of my favorite novels ever. I've devoured, with intentional puns, this one twice, the second time in tandem with my friends. This represents the purpose of literature. One's culinary awareness is doubtless to be inspired within these pages. Delicious, sinuous and robust, a divine brush paints along his narration, one timeless and laden with vibrato. He is similar to the Magical Realists, only better.
Joel Palma
The Flounder: 20th century’s last Nobel Prize in Literature was given to Günter Grass, lauded him for his “frolicsome black fables that portray the forgotten face of history”. This accolade from the prestigious organization cannot be more aptly considered than Günter Grass’ masterpiece- “The Flounder”!

“Frolicsome”- yes; “black fable”- yes; “portray the forgotten face of history”- yes; Flounder as member of the Nobel Committee for Literature- maybe, I wouldn’t be surprised, there’s something fish
Aug 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
this book is kicking my ass ... a herculean effort required to finish it. there are, however, brilliant passages peppered in the dense stew that I really really love. Whenever I get to one, it's a giant relief.

So ask yourself, do you like books that offer occasional relief? Do you like interminable slogs through someone's intellectual workouts? Do you like falling asleep on the train and missing your stop?
Vit Babenco
Nov 21, 2015 rated it liked it
“These were the questions to be resolved: Who was speaking here and for what purpose? What would they have to explain first? The fact that the Flounder could talk or the substance of what he was saying? Was this a late reactionary attempt on the part of medieval Scholasticism to prove that evil could take the form of a fish? Was this Flounder a personification of capitalism? Or—an even greater contradiction – might he be an embodiment of Hegel's Weltgeist?”
The flounder isn’t exactly an avatar of
Feb 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: german-lit
Deftig (ribald)! This would be the one-word review. Grass is explicit in his extensive descriptions - mostly of food, in parts sexuality or other body functions and sometimes violence.

The story:
Der Butt has three narrative dimensions.
1. Today, the narrator and his wife Ilsebill - who is of legendary fame due to an old fairy tale - are receiving a child. The book is divided into nine chapters, one for each month of the pregnancy.
2. The second dimension consists of the narrator's multiple reinca
Oct 13, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: german, fiction
Well. Uh. This is definitely something.

An odd book, to put it mildly. Grass has his trademark humor and historical wisdom here. But the whole concept of the novel is something baffling - a talking fish gives advice to the reincarnations of a man and his cook-wife in the areas near Danzig, and the fish is accused by a gang of radical feminists that he has altered the course of history by instituting the patriarchy. There's also a lot of discussion on food, particularly potatoes.

I have no idea wha
Jennifer Richardson
Dec 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is a fantastic, convoluted, dark and intensely strange 500 page fairy tale. The story perpetually switches between time periods, from early neolithic to present, and between the female protagonists of each time- but once you get the hang of all of the women and the men (who are in fact one man conscious of all of his historical reincarnations), it is surprisingly easy to read and stay in the flow of the current narrators past and present ramblings and references. Essentially this histo ...more
Feb 20, 2010 is currently reading it
Shelves: germanistik
To be continued, the deeper in I get. Haven't encountered such culinary indulgence since Rabelais, such brazen jocularity since Diderot, and such full-stomached appetite for life since Grimmelshausen. Grass is the potato of literature: earthy, savory, and irreplaceable.
Robert Beveridge
Feb 11, 2008 rated it did not like it
Gunter Grass, The Flounder (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977)

I just couldn't get through it. I can't really put my finger on why, but there it is. The Flounder contains all the things I revere about Grass-- a strong sense of history, scurrlious sense of humor, strong characters put into wonderfully unrealistic situations. But this novel, Grass' weightiest (literally), never seems to come together in all the little ways that made similarly large tomes like The Tin Drum and Dog Years such wonderful
Robbin Rose
Dec 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was a favorite book of mine in my 20's. I must have re-read it 3 or 4 times - and would like to revisit it. I wonder if I would be as enamored of the story now that I am 60!
Czarny Pies
Oct 20, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No. There are better books available in the Grass catalogue
Recommended to Czarny by: I was a bigGrass fan before reading this lamentable effort and still am.
Man is was man isst. Man is what he eats. What makes better sense then to write a history of ones hometown Gdansk (a.k.a. Danzig) through its food of which the dish of honour is the Flounder which is the heraldic animal of Gdansk.

Unfortunately the joke goes on far too long. Gunther's Grass great talent is his ability to show how popular attitudes change from decade to decade, from year to year and (in times of war) from day to day.

In this great masterpiece, the Tim Drum Grass shows how the atti
Lisa Thomas
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I first attempted to read this tome when I was 19, couldn't do it. Began it again in my late 20's, got a bit further but had to give it up (it was far too intense and detailed and I found myself not understanding anything!) then I saw some crazy Facebook story about a woman who had a third boob implanted and I laughed and recalled Awa from the opening of The Flounder. I decided to pick it up again at 49 yrs of age. Third time's a charm. It was like time travel for me since I'd read parts of it i ...more
Flyss Williams
Jan 28, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 I really struggled with rating this book, on the one hand it's clearly an important and intellectual novel but I found it a chore to slog through. There are several threads to the story, but the bulk of the narrative is taken up with the history of the local area told through the narrator's relationships with nine different women spanning over many centuries. (he is able to time shift) There is also a parrellel story in which these relationships are being used as evidence in a feminist trial ...more
Mar 17, 2015 rated it liked it
This book had an interesting premise and some brilliant pieces of writing. Despite that, it felt a little too long and took me quite a while to finish even though I was basically reading this and doing nothing else since I started the book. Some parts of the book were delightfully convoluted with a touch of absurdity while some parts were just a little silly. The timeline was also all over the place. I hear that Grass has better books and I liked it enough to give those a try. Maybe not immediat ...more
Jul 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
My favorite book not named "Brothers Karamazov". Unbelievably rich and detailed hisotries of numerous personal relationships along the path of German historical growth intertwined with the 'true' story of how the Flounder, caught by an itinerant fisherman, changed history. Before his capture men were happily subservient and subdued in a matriarchal society; afterwards, not so much! When the Flounder allows himself to be caught a second time, this time by a woman, he's put on trial for his past t ...more
Ahren Lembke-Windler
Mar 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
after receiving the most personalized recommmendation for this book ever, i find it strange to say this, but it's not really a book i'd recommend to others, just because it's so... eclectic? that said, it's fantastic and exactly the kinda book you love to run into other readers of, cuz it's great for discussions. so, read it. but that isn't a recommendation-- you might hate it.
Joey Manley
Mar 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, literary
It's been many years since I read it, but I think I owe my fascination with food history (or I guess I should say the history of cooking) to having been exposed at such a young age to Gunter Grass' The Flounder. I should read it again.
Jan 01, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Open minded person looking for a long book
Shelves: nobel-laureate
Made me laugh, pissed me off, confused me, kept me company for many evenings and sometimes I just had to walk away to think about what I had read (or get it out of my head). Definitely reaction provoking.
Dec 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Although the Tin Drum is more famous, The Flounder is more typical of Grass' sprawling mid-period novels, and still worth a read. Along with The Rat, this is the high-water mark or Grass' writing, but e.g. Local Anaesthetic also worth a punt.
Gregory Sotir
Apr 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Great read, especially about food. Grass' writing is quite disturbing, at times almost macabre, but his sweeping dark histories of 20th century Northern Europe are essential to understand what happened there during those frightening times.
A witty and intelligent and significant cartoon of board scope and reference.
Oct 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Een van de mooiste kaft illustraties die ik ooit heb gezien.
Jan 01, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
ترجمه اقتضاح
Sep 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
An epic novel about the history of the conflicts between men and woman, combined with a history of our food. As it is often the case in Grass books, the story takes place near Gdansk/Danzig. It starts
from the stone age and finishes in the 1970's. The male and omniscient narrator shares his encounters he had with nine female cooks throughout the centuries and how a flounder gave him advice to support and cement the male supremacy. Parallel, the flounder is accused by a female court, because of hi
Jul 24, 2017 added it
Fini le Turbot. Pour l'homme, du moins. Pourtant à appeler et à repêcher par tous. Comme se faire baiser tantôt doucement, tantôt passionnément et tantôt furieusement par un élan lithique. « Mais je n'ai pas envie de chevaux. Je ne tiens pas à être sauvé. J'aime entrer en tentation. Ce que je préfère, c'est aller au hasard. Se sacrifier pour moi n'est jamais payant. Tout juste si, pour faire plaisir à Ilsebill, je pourrais demain être un peu malade, faible, caduc, pitoyable, exemplaire à titre c ...more
Ricardo Loup
May 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Un libro extraño y exuberante. Esa mezcla de absurdo y sátira, nos deja por momentos perplejos y por momentos extasiados. Con varios pasajes de verdadera brillantez, en general la lectura se hace un poco desconcertante, por la capacidad fabuladora de un europeo que domina el realismo mágico. Un gran libro, aunque creo que sólo recomendado para seguidores de este enorme escritor.
John Ryan
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The use of language is incredible, and the overall structure gets across on an emotional level European history of vender, cookery and of life. Funny and profane at the same time as being dense and allegorical while also being emotionally resonant. The last two sections are beyond despair, I read them commuting on a bus with tears welling up.
Catherine Brizzi
Feb 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: abandoned
I agree with what others have said-there are parts that are excellent but I've found it very difficult to finish. I have started and stopped multiple times and haven't managed to get much farther than halfway.
Sean Ramsby
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Magnificent! I first read The Flounder in my early twenties and while I was fascinated by the book, it mostly baffled me. Reading it 25 years later (and with the help of the internet) I feel I'm at least approaching an understanding of it. It's still a mind boggling read but the challenge makes it that much more enjoyable. I look forward to reading it again in another 20 years.
Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
Not my kind of book at all, but so out there that it's probably worth a look. If Joseph Beuys wrote novels, they'd read like this bad food feast.
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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)
“For marriage has nothing in common with love. marriage makes for security; love makes only for suffering. On the other hand, love could be so distilled, spun so fine as to implicate third and fourth persons, as to take up three or four exciting acts in a play.” 2 likes
“Neljännentoista vuosisadan lopulla matkusti tänne seurueineen englantilainen prinssi Henry Derby, kauan ennen kuin hänestä tuli Shakespearen henkilö, ottaakseen kristityn talvihuvina osaa pakanallisten liettualaisten jahtaamiseen.” 0 likes
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