The Flounder

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The Flounder
Author Günter Grass
Original title Der Butt
Translator Ralph Manheim
Country West Germany
Language German
Publisher Luchterhand
Publication date
August 1977
Published in English
November 1978
Pages 693
ISBN 3-472-86069-3

The Flounder (German: Der Butt) is a 1977 novel by the West German writer Günter Grass. It is loosely based on the fairy tale The Fisherman and His Wife.

Themes[edit]

Günter Grass said that "The Flounder is about women and food, but it is also about women and war, including what women have done against war — unfortunately, mostly silence." Regarding his view on the human sexes and its influence on the novel, Grass said: "Most women who read the book all the way through like it. Those in the women's liberation movement who say there is no difference between men and women don't like it. I like the difference- I hate those who don't like the difference between men and women."[1] The key theme of the book is of Woman's historical contribution in both fact and fiction, ranging from the early goddesses of the Vistula, to the Grimm's Brothers' "The Fisherman and His Wife", to the novel’s contemporaneous Women’s' libbers, and the central role of the Flounder as agent and provocateur in the cause of one or the other of the sexes throughout.

Writing process[edit]

Grass came up with the idea for the book while campaigning for the politician Willy Brandt. He said that during the campaign, he was "constantly being bombarded by second-hand language", and an urge to write what would become The Flounder started to grow. The book then took five years to finish.[2]

Publication[edit]

The novel was published in August 1977 through Luchterhand, with a first edition of 100,000 copies. One of Luchterhand's ways to market the book was to send out 4000 preview copies to selected people. Grass toured extensively with public readings of the book during the eight weeks leading up to the release; upon the publication date, Grass had read extracts for a total of 10,000 people. The book dominated the German bestseller chart for several months.[3] By October 1977, nearly 250,000 copies had been sold.[4] An English translation by Ralph Manheim was published in the United Kingdom and United States in November 1978.[5]

Reception[edit]

William Cloonan of Boston Review wrote that The Flounder marks a new direction in Grass' writing, partially because it is not concerned with World War II like the author's previous books: "But Grass's other concerns, his strengths, and weaknesses, are very much in evidence. Foremost among them is the tension between his pedagogical and artistic instincts. The Flounder is Grass's teacher par excellence and with him the question, hinted at in Local Anaesthetic, 'can one trust one's teacher,' is explicit." Cloonan also wrote: "With the Flounder, Gunter Grass creates a character whose combination of intelligence, amorality, self-irony, and curiosity makes him almost the equal of Oskar [in The Tin Drum]. Indeed, there is much brilliant writing in The Flounder. For a writer justly famous for extended humorous and grotesque scenes, Grass also has a flair for one-liners."[6]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Mitgang, Herbert (1978-11-25). "Grass on Men, Women, and 'Flounder'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-01-27. 
  2. ^ Plant, Richard (1978-12-17). "Answers by Günter Grass". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-01-27. 
  3. ^ Mews 2008, p. 137
  4. ^ Mews 2008, p. 140
  5. ^ Mews 2008, p. 143
  6. ^ Cloonan, William (1978). "Gunther Grass Floundering". Boston Review (Somerville, Massachusetts: Boston Critic Inc.) 4 (September/October). ISSN 0734-2306. Retrieved 2012-01-27. 
Bibliography