What is it with the onions?


Nearer the end of the book, Grass bluntly states: “I practiced the art of evasion.” What is breathtaking about this autobiography is Grass’s honesty about his dishonesty. From this, “I was completely and utterly taken up with my own existence and the attendant existential questions and could not have cared less about day-to-day politics” — to this, “I have to admit that I have a problem with time: many things that began or ended precisely didn’t register with me until long after the fact.”

And throughout the book are the origins, the actual sources, of details readers will remember from Grass’s novels; the reference to Oskar Matzerath, who “got himself a job as a model,” had special meaning for me. There’s also the appearance (in a small town in Switzerland) of “a boy about 3 years of age … with a toy drum hanging from his neck” — enough to give readers of “The Tin Drum” a chill — or this quieter observation: “One never knows what will make a book.”

more from the NY Times here.