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The Rat

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  671 ratings  ·  40 reviews
A female rat engages the narrator in a series of dialogues-convincingly demonstrating to him that the rats will inherit a devastated earth. Dreams alternate with reality in this story within a story within a story. Translated by Ralph Manheim. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book
Paperback, 384 pages
Published May 5th 1989 by Mariner Books (first published 1986)
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Average rating 3.44  · 
Rating details
 ·  671 ratings  ·  40 reviews

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Rebecca McNutt
I don't understand this book's low ratings. I thought it was beautiful, and though it took me a few minutes to get used to the mixed-up point-of-view between characters, I still think all the same that it was worthwhile. It's not the type of book that just stays straightforward and simple, and sometimes it's almost childish even, but definitely a great story of a rat and its view of the world that humans are creating for better or for worse.
May 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Flying across the Atlantic in 1997 Two Frenchmen noticed me reading The Rat, both were already quite drunk and fuelling their mirth with minibottle cocktails which they pored into Coke cans. One held his nose and said something the other began laughing and mumbled something in a thickened voice, the word nazi may have been in there. I can't really say. I put on my headphones and attempted to ignore them, hoping the airport security would stomp them upon arrival. No, I didn't think that. I was ho ...more

[UPDATE On special request I have translated my review into English, only to find out how hard this is. See below]

Jadoch, Rättin, ich will mich wohl bemühen und über dich schreiben! Nacktschwänzig, knopfäugig, graufellig und witterhaarig stelle ich mir dich vor. Du erscheinst dem Dichter zuerst real, unterm Weihnachtsbaum, als erfüllter Wunsch, als mögliche Muse für neue Geschichten.

Dann träumt der Dichter dich und du bemächtigst dich einer eigenen Stimme, doch einen Namen erhältst du nie. Auf Rattenwelsch zunächst sind deine erst[
Joe Hunt
Nov 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
I didn't totally finish this one, either--

maybe dragged on a little bit in some parts...

But sometimes it was amazing.

It's funny...A great title.

It's funny, just to start talking about rats, of all things.

Seemed like he had a lot to say about rats. It was good. (I can't remember a ton of it.) Something about a rat.

(You know what? I really like to post books I only read a little of...

I must be the laziest reader in
T.P. Williams
Apr 03, 2014 rated it did not like it
I have generally been a fan of Grass', more so in the sixties, but recently enjoyed "Crabwalk," but found this book a big disappointment. Muddled POV is only one problem, as I was frequently lost between the narrator and the She-Rat as to who was relating the story, such as it was. Several strands of thought are not connected by the author. He revisits old territory, "Tin Drum" and "The Flounder" by reviving some of those characters, including old pal Oskar Matzerath. That was good, but the stra ...more
Pat Anderson
Aug 06, 2012 rated it did not like it
Grass is another one of those beatnik/hippy writers, like Vonegutt, whose ideas seem a bit dated now. I enjoyed 'The Tin Drum' when I read it in the late 80s, even though Oskar comes across as a nasty, self-centred brat. I am sure when the book was written Oskar seemed like a wonderful, radical, non-conformist role model. Times change though. That is why I did not enjoy 'The Rat.' It was written in the 80s, so it is hard to indulge Grass his hippy rhetoric. The main crime, though, was his crass ...more
Aug 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Now, She-rat, that forests and rivers, plains and mountains, manifestos and prayers, even banners and leaflets, not to mention heads emptied by speculation, provide indications that our yarn may be running out; now that the end is being postponed from day to day, knitting women are the lat counter-force, whereas men just talk everything to pieces and finish nothing, not even mittens capable of supplying warmth to freezing humanity."
-Gunter Grass, The Rat, p.27

This book was a roller coaster
Feb 24, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dystopian
I remember struggling with this book when I read it in high school, a time period that seems very far away now. However, it's also stuck with me, sort of like a bad dream, and so perhaps it's one I should re-read someday. Since he references his earlier work in this book, and it's the only Grass I've read, it's not surprising I had trouble with it. The Tin Drum is certainly higher on my to-read list.
Lauren DeLong
Nov 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books, ever. The narrative style is delightful, and layered - and often humorous - insights into the human condition and capitalism make this a classic as far as I'm concerned.
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a "difficult" book to read, but only in terms of structure, as Grass alternates between dreams and reality. But once one surrenders to the flow of Grass' writing, you are treated to the marvelous unfolding of truth-saying. This book is prescient of the downfall of humankind and there is no better narrator to take us there than the SHE-RAT. "Toward the end of human history, the human race had developed a soothing, appeasing language, which spared people's feelings by never calling anythin ...more
Mar 10, 2017 rated it liked it
This book is generally considered one of the authors greatest works, but I'd read two other of his books just before this one, and I think I kind of hit my limit. Sometimes too much of a good thing is not a good thing.
Dale Jirschele
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
Found it difficult to read, did not relate to the main character. It had interesting scenarios which were pretty cool and creative.
May 04, 2015 rated it it was ok
I never thought a Gunter Grass novel would be a chore to read, but here it is. This is a big, bold mess, mostly an overwrought allegory about environmental change, populated by fairy tale characters banding together against the engines of war, an environmental survey ship populated by 5 women covertly searching for a mythical sunken city, Oskar Matzerath of the Tin Drum's fame attending his grandmother's 107th birthday, the author's back-and-forth dialogue with a she-rat's dreams/reality of a po ...more
Avery King
Aug 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
A multifaceted narrative that offers up a plethora of perspectives. This novel engenders a sense of one's temporality within the reader. As it deals with time and repetition. This layered novel has very fluid transitions between the narratives which adds to the motif of dreaming. This is definitely a novel that you have to commit to. It only took me three days to read, but for some (especially those that don't have a lot of time on their hands) it could take much longer because of the slow plot ...more
Apr 06, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely not a book I will recommend to anyone unless they are academic literature or Germanophile historian types. To truly break it down would required an academic paper, since Grass is certainly very skilled literarily. But for the sake of time and space, I will write some short impressions: pretentious; pessimistic; outdatedly predictive of man's fall; overstated importance of his generation's will to affect their demise.

We are doing the same thing now. While Grass thought we'd
Boyd Coleman
Jan 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Maybe my favorite book ever! It is so amazingly abstract, yet it makes wonderful observations on the human condition buried in three bizarre seemingly unrelated stories being told at the same time. I also find it amusing how the same characters and stories show up in so many of Gunter Grass' works. It's almost as if half of his books are really the same book shown from different points of view. The guy is a genius. By the way he was the mentor for John Irvin when he was beginning to write.
Apr 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is not necessarily a book I would recommend. Much like the Flounder, it sprawls and double backs - pulling in several themes to form a sort of mosaic whole - a style I enjoy. But I got the feeling Grass was writing this book more for himself than the readers. Also, it is absolutely required to read the Flounder and the Tin Drum first as he resurrects their characters in this novel. Good, but not great.
Nate D
Jul 27, 2008 rated it it was ok
All form, little function. The characters are bizarre and potentially fascinating, but all prove to be lifeless puppets, or armies of lifeless puppets, all animated and slung about the world. It's amazing how much not caring at all (or perhaps not being allowed to care) for anyone involved can ruin a completely fascinating premise, or set of premises. Gunter Grass will always write a few amazing scenes and devices, but will never be a favorite, I have the feeling.
Jun 24, 2007 rated it it was ok
I've been reading this book off and on since 2000. Yes, it's true - seven years long. Obviously, I don't get very far; I get distracted, perhaps I have Attention Defecit Disorder? No, I don't. This book is hard to read as a novel. I enjoy parts of it nevertheless - random paragraphs, the many poems, the imagery - in small doses.
Mar 09, 2014 rated it it was ok
Had to read it for my German class in Year 12. It made me fall asleep constantly... no other book managed to do that to me so far. But nonetheless, it was not necessarily a bad book. I just think I was maybe a bit to young to read such a challenging book in terms of writing style, language and themes. I might even reread it sometime in the future if the mood hits me.
Nov 11, 2007 rated it it was ok
I never seem to be able to sustain my enthusiasm for Gunther Grass long enough to finish a book. I quite enjoyed this one for maybe a hundred pages or so, but then it all began to seem tedious, and my interest flagged, and I gave it up.
Feb 05, 2009 is currently reading it
This book is in a box buried somewhere in my storage space. I started it, found the style and material interesting... and then life intervened, I suppose. One of those books that I didn't intend to stop reading, but haven't gotten around to finishing yet.
Nov 29, 2010 marked it as partly-read
Read about 90 pages and then just gave up, a little too jumpy and dreamy and even though I'm not easily confused with books, a bit too confusing for me.
Apr 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: did-not-finish
Long, and a bit confusing.
Oct 13, 2007 marked it as to-read
still reading it.. not very far yet due to general business
Joe Britches
Nov 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Joe by: all day
An amazing book! Really intense layered social critique...
Dec 28, 2007 is currently reading it
interesting so far... very stream of consciousness
Aug 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Viewed as a sequel of The Tin Drum: Excellent.
Aug 31, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Couldn't manage to finish it.. I reckon i should be to one to get zero stars.
Jun 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: germany, favorites
One of the best apocalyptic fictions I've ever read. I love Chapter 11!
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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
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“Because men
are killing the forests
the fairy tales are running away.
The spindle doesn't know
whom to prick,
the little girl's hands
that her father has chopped off,
haven't a single tree to catch hold of,
the third wish remains unspoken.
King Thrushbeard no longer owns one thing.
Children can no longer get lost.
The number seven means no more than exactly seven.
Because men have killed the forests,
the fairy tales are trotting off to the cities
and end badly.”
More quotes…