Local Anaesthetic (novel)
|Original title||Örtlich betäubt|
Published in English
Local Anaesthetic (German: Örtlich betäubt ) is a 1969 novel by the West German writer Günter Grass. It tells the story of an idealistic high-school teacher who believes society, like a pupil, is learning from experience and reason. Grass had been deeply moved after learning about the Hübener Group, three teenage Mormons who distributed anti-Nazi material inspired by BBC London radio broadcasts and were arrested by the Gestapo in Hamburg. Two were released to labor camps, but the author himself, Helmuth Hübener, was executed by guillotine as a 17-year-old traitor to the Reich. Hitler personally refused to reduce or commute the sentence. When interviewed for the documentary Truth & Conviction (see external link below), Grass said it continually tore at him that he and other Germans couldn't somehow have dug deeper, seen through the Nazi deception sooner and found the courage to stand up. It eventually helped Grass sublimate his anguish to convert it into a novel.
Anatole Broyard wrote in The New York Times that "There is little in Grass's previous books to prepare us for this one. Where they were sprawling and self-indulgent, Local Anaesthetic is lean and ironic." Broyard wrote that the author "unmercifully satirizes the impotence, the masochism, the desperate expedients, that make the lot of the liberal such a hard one". About the technical aspects, he wrote that "Grass has possessed himself of everything fiction has learned in the past two decades- and he uses that knowledge so well that the book is a brilliant tour de force. With this important difference: unlike most tours de force, it never condescends to its content. Every invention satisfies a need and comes out sounding natural."
- Broyard, Anatole (1970-03-29). "Günter Grass demonstrates that fiction is not only alive but healthier than ever". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-01-29.
- Truth & Conviction (2002) at the Internet Movie Database — documentary film on Hübener by Matt Whitaker