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Nobel-winning German writer Gunter Grass dies aged 87


German Nobel Prize-winning novelist Guenter Grass. Photo: EPA

German Nobel Prize-winning novelist Guenter Grass. Photo: EPA


German Nobel Prize-winning novelist Guenter Grass. Photo: EPA

Gunter Grass, Germany's Nobel Prize-winning author, has died at the age of 87.

Grass, who is best known for his first novel, 'The Tin Drum' (1959), a seminal text in European magic realism, died yesterday in Lübeck, Germany.

He was a novelist, poet, essayist, dramatist, sculptor and graphic artist but his reputation was tarnished by his admission he served in Hitler's Waffen SS.

'The Tin Drum' was a satire of those, like his parents, who were seduced by Nazi ideas and the novel was decried as blasphemous pornography and banned in numerous dictatorships. A 1979 film adaptation of the novel, which was directed and co-written by Volker Schlöndorff, won the Palme d'Or at the 1979 Cannes Festival.

'The Tin Drum' and his subsequent works - the novella 'Cat and Mouse' (1961) and the novel 'Dog Years' (1963) - are popularly known as the Danzig trilogy. The Swedish Academy awarded him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1999, praising him as a writer "whose frolicsome black fables portray the forgotten face of history".

Grass was born in 1927 in Danzig-Langfuhr of Polish-German parents. After military service he was held in captivity by American forces from 1944-46.

He revealed his SS service in an interview in 2006, in an interview ahead of his autobiography 'Peeling the Onion'. There were calls for him to return his Nobel Prize.

"My silence through all these years is one of the reasons why I wrote this book," Grass said over the news that he had served in the SS. "It had to come out finally." (© Daily Telegraph, London)