Dog Years (novel)
First English translation cover
|Cover artist||Günter Grass|
|Publisher||Harcourt, Brace and World|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
The main characters in "Dog Years" are Walter Matern and his friend Eduard Amsel - who is partly Jewish and at the young age of 5 is a genius at making scarecrows. The novel consists of three different chronological parts. The narrator in Book One, the mine owner Brauxel, tells the friendship of Walter and Eduard when they are children in the Vistula estuary, where Brauxel's mine is located, which is a German-Polish borderland (the interwar Free City of Danzig) peopled by Mennonites, Catholics and Protestants. The boy Amsel keeps a diary which he fills with drawings of ideas for scarecrows. The history of this country is told with cruel images of horror and violence from that past that echoes into the present, which becomes Hitler's Germany. The story in the second part of the book is narrated by Harry Liebenau, and consists of letters from him addressed to his cousin Tulla. This part of the story occurs during the war period, when Amsel collects vast numbers of S.A. uniforms, and dresses his scarecrows in them. He also persuades his childhood friend Walter, who is himself a member of the S.A., to help him obtain the uniforms. But since the confusion in this country has reached its maximum at this point in time, it is inevitable that the two friends end up on a collision course. At one point Walter denounces Amsel as a Jew, hits him in the face and knocks his teeth out. The last part of the novel is narrated by Walter himself and takes place after he has found his new friend Prinz. They leave on a journey in the postwar West Germany, where they systematically attack former Nazis who are now posing as respectable officials throughout the country.
Grass's style frequently parodies Martin Heidegger's arcane philosophical syntax in Being and Time, which one of the teenage protagonists likes to poke fun at. The years from the prewar to the postwar era are presented in Dog Years through the perspective of three different narrators, a team directed by Amsel — alias Brauxel — who makes scarecrows in man's image. The seemingly solid childhood friendship of Amsel and Matem evolves into the love-hate relationship between Jew and non-Jew under the impact of Nazi ideology. When the former friends from the region of the Vistula Delta finally meet again in the West, the ominous Alsatian dog (German shepherd) that followed Matern on his odyssey is left behind in Brauxel's subterranean world of scarecrows. While Dog Years, like The Tin Drum, again accounts for the past through the eyes of an artist, the artist is no longer a demonic tin-drummer in the guise of a child but the ingenious maker of a world of objects reflecting the break between the creations of nature and those of men. The narrator refers to Amsel's "keen sense of reality in all its innumerable forms."
Other works by Grass