Germany's Illiberal Fictions

From Thomas Mann to Günter Grass, German novelists have for years provided the outside world with an insight into their country's political culture. It's not a pretty picture.

Issue: Summer 2000

When the Nobel committee awarded Günter Grass its literature prize earlier this year, it recognized his stature not only as a novelist but as Germany's leading polemicist. Whether it was hitting the campaign trail for socialist Chancellor Willy Brandt in the late 1960s or condemning German reunification, the gloomy, walrus-moustached Grass has made a career of battling the German conservatives he refers to as "skinheads in neckties." Today, the newly minted Nobel laureate appears on talk shows to celebrate the meltdown of the Christian Democratic Union.

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