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Sinking Ships, the Lost Heimat and Broken Taboos: Günter Grass and the Politics of Memory in Contemporary Germany


‘History, more precisely, the history that we are stirring up, is a stopped up toilet. We flush and flush, the shit still floats back up.’Günter Grass, Im Krebsgang: Eine Novelle (Göttingen: Steidl, 2002), 116. All translations from the German are my own. Since February 2002 Paul Pokriefke, the narrator of Günter Grass's latest book, Im Krebsgang: Eine Novelle (Walking like a crab: a novella), has offered these words of wisdom to several hundred thousand readers who have made Grass's book an immediate bestseller in Germany. With plans for the book to be translated into no fewer than thirty-one languages, Pokriefke's insights will soon be available to an international audience.Eva-Maria Mester, ‘Deutschstunde in Lübeck: Übersetzer trafen sich mit Günter Grass’, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA)-Europadienst, 2 April 2002.

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My particular thanks go to the two anonymous referees and Lynn Mally, Klaus Naumann and Pertti Ahonen, whose critical comments made this a better article. John Connelly went above and beyond what might normally be expected of an editor, and at every stage he helped me to focus my argument. Useful as well were a range of critical responses from participants in seminars in the German Department at the University of California, Irvine, and at the Midwest German History Workshop at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. I am also grateful to Pertti Ahonen for making available to me his Ph.D. dissertation, ‘The Expellee Organizations and West German Ostpolitik, 1949–1969’ (Yale University, 1999), and parts of his forthcoming book, After the Expulsion: West Germany and Eastern Europe, 1945–1990 (forthcoming, Oxford University Press, 2003).
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Contemporary European History
  • ISSN: 0960-7773
  • EISSN: 1469-2171
  • URL: /core/journals/contemporary-european-history
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