Sunday, 12 June 2016

cat and mouse [günter grass]

Cat and Mouse is a novel that’s as agile as it’s title suggests. The narrative is seemingly straightforward, dealing with the difficulties of evolving from childhood to adulthood. However, this simplicity is muddied by the fact that the characters undergoing this transformation are living in Nazi Germany, during the war, on the Baltic coast. Grass’ prose feels, even in translation, effortlessly lucid. The slipages as the narrator veers between the third and second person as he tells the story of Mahlke, the child-man with the outsized Adam’s Apple, sometimes addressing him and sometimes the reader, feel like a masterly trick, revealing the narrator’s incipient guilt. This guilt gradually builds, suggesting that it is not merely caused by the narrator’s part in Mahlke’s downfall. but also by the war itself. Without in any way ever suggesting that he’s taking on the burden of that which he was born into. This is a guilt which is unavoidable, destined, as much as a story has an unavoidable shape, as much as a cat unavoidably goes for the mouse. 

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