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Author Topic: The poem by Günter Grass  (Read 1061 times)
Tender Branson
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« on: April 07, 2012, 06:58:33 am »
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Günter Grass's Controversial Poem About Israel, Iran, and War, Translated

On Wednesday, Nobel-winning German writer Günter Grass published a poem denouncing Israel's nuclear program and aggression toward Iran. The poem, in which Grass says he has kept silent on the issue for fear of being labeled anti-Semitic, has sparked controversy within Germany, where relations with Israel are often colored by a sense of national guilt for the Holocaust. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the poem's assertion that Israel poses a greater threat to world peace than Iran a "shameful moral equivalence." The poem also laments Germany's decision to sell submarines to Israel that are capable of launching nuclear weapons.

Grass's history with regards to German-Jewish relations is complicated. The writer, now 84, spent decades pushing his country to confront its Nazi past, making him a hero to many Germans who share his desire to deal honestly with Germany's complicated and painful history. In 2006, he announced that he had served in Hitler's infamous Waffen SS division. He was 17 years old when the war ended in 1945, but the admission, coming so late, has darkened his previously bright legacy.

His poem, "What Must Be Said," is overtly and boldly political. It is not exactly the prettiest prose in its original German, and the English doesn't read much better. Translating it below, I've tried to untangle some of the needlessly Teutonic constructions where it doesn't undo the deliberately winding and parenthetical tone too much. Even more concise German can sound circuitous to an English ear, but Grass's writing here is an extreme example. The poem is, from a purely communicative standpoint, a relatively inefficient denunciation -- akin to writing up a paragraph of solid reasoning and then cutting it up and sticking little bits in fortune cookies.

What Must Be Said

Why do I stay silent, conceal for too long
What clearly is and has been
Practiced in war games, at the end of which we as survivors
Are at best footnotes.

It is the alleged right to first strike
That could annihilate the Iranian people--
Enslaved by a loud-mouth
And guided to organized jubilation--
Because in their territory,
It is suspected, a bomb is being built.

Yet why do I forbid myself
To name that other country
In which, for years, even if secretly,
There has been a growing nuclear potential at hand
But beyond control, because no testing is available?

The universal concealment of these facts,
To which my silence subordinated itself,
I sense as incriminating lies
And force--the punishment is promised
As soon as it is ignored;
The verdict of "anti-Semitism" is familiar.

Now, though, because in my country
Which from time to time has sought and confronted
The very crime
That is without compare
In turn on a purely commercial basis, if also
With nimble lips calling it a reparation, declares
A further U-boat should be delivered to Israel,
Whose specialty consists of guiding all-destroying warheads to where the existence
Of a single atomic bomb is unproven,
But through fear of what may be conclusive,
I say what must be said.

Why though have I stayed silent until now?
Because I think my origin,
Which has never been affected by this obliterating flaw,
Forbids this fact to be expected as pronounced truth
Of the country of Israel, to which I am bound
And wish to stay bound.

Why do I say only now,
Aged and with my last ink,
That the nuclear power of Israel endangers
The already fragile world peace?
Because it must be said
What even tomorrow may be too late to say;
Also because we--as Germans burdened enough--
Could be the suppliers to a crime
That is foreseeable, wherefore our complicity
Could not be redeemed through any of the usual excuses.

And granted: I am silent no longer
Because I am tired of the hypocrisy
Of the West; in addition to which it is to be hoped
That this will free many from silence,
Prompt the perpetrator of the recognized danger
To renounce violence and
Likewise insist
That an unhindered and permanent control
Of the Israeli nuclear potential
And the Iranian nuclear sites
Be authorized through an international agency
Of the governments of both countries.

Only this way are all, the Israelis and Palestinians,
Even more, all people, that in this
Region occupied by mania
Live cheek by jowl among enemies,
In the end also to help us.

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/04/gunter-grasss-controversial-poem-about-israel-iran-and-war-translated/255549/
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« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2012, 07:07:50 am »
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I have read the German original and it is not a good poem by GG standard. Classical leftwing rhetoric and not much else. But unfair of the media to include GGs brief SS experience in an evaluation of it - even if keeping stum about it was cowardly.
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« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2012, 10:22:16 am »
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I'm not exactly a fan of Israel or Isreali policy at the moment, but Grass is just totally absurd. It's unfortunate he has a relatively large fan base.
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« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2012, 12:15:05 pm »
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Politics aside (including the obvious unfortunate issue concerning Grass), that's a terrible poem. Is it any better in its original language?
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« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2012, 12:17:20 pm »
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I doubt it. I haven't read it. Doing so might make me sympathize a tiny bit more with the usual morons beating up on him, and I don't want that.
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« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2012, 12:23:27 pm »
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Yeah, can't imagine there's any language where that would be poetical. Haven't seen the original though. Can't imagine Grass is much of a gifted poet anyway, either.
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« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2012, 12:41:03 pm »
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A sympathetic interpretation of his poem is that Grass has "exaggerated" quite a bit.

But his critics of the past few days are certainly guilty of that even more than him. Grass is "returning to his National Socialist roots", "at the core he's brown"... seriously, wtf? Ever heard of Godwin's Law?

Everybody should just shut the f**k the up (including Grass himself, I suppose).
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« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2012, 12:42:09 pm »
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Politics aside (including the obvious unfortunate issue concerning Grass), that's a terrible poem. Is it any better in its original language?
No it isn't. Way below normal GG standard.
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« Reply #8 on: April 08, 2012, 02:45:44 am »
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A sympathetic interpretation of his poem is that Grass has "exaggerated" quite a bit.

But his critics of the past few days are certainly guilty of that even more than him. Grass is "returning to his National Socialist roots", "at the core he's brown"... seriously, wtf? Ever heard of Godwin's Law?

Everybody should just shut the f**k the up (including Grass himself, I suppose).

Yeah, I'd say this is a bad poem and nothing more.
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22:15   ComradeSibboleth   this is all extremely terrible and in all respects absolutely fycking dire.

It really is.



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« Reply #9 on: April 08, 2012, 04:08:15 pm »
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That poetry is almost as bad as Harold Pinter's.
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Quote
Keith R Laws ‏@Keith_Laws  Feb 4
As I have noted before 'paradigm shift' is an anagram of 'grasp dim faith'
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« Reply #10 on: April 08, 2012, 04:49:12 pm »
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Why is when we discuss Israel-Palestina, people of both sides suddenly lose their brain. Everyone suddenly lose a 50 I.Q: point when discussing the issue.

Beside that to bring up Grass history as member of Waffen SS is idiotic, seeing as he by modern standards was a child soldier, and even if people don't recognise that, he was still a conscript rather than some Nazi voluntee.
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« Reply #11 on: April 08, 2012, 05:07:18 pm »
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Considering Grass's entire post-war history and literary work, calling him an anti-semite is retarded.
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« Reply #12 on: April 08, 2012, 05:51:27 pm »
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Considering Grass's entire post-war history and literary work, calling him an anti-semite is retarded.

Yes, and as idiotic as Grass is...it is unfortunate that you can't really make any comments of that sort without being called an anti-semite in this country.
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« Reply #13 on: April 08, 2012, 05:53:23 pm »
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Considering Grass's entire post-war history and literary work, calling him an anti-semite is retarded.

If we adopt the attitude that not supporting Israels occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is antisemitic, I guess you could call him that. Of course sensible people aren't moronic enough to do so, but some people still adopt this attitude. Of course if we completely ignore context, Grass is also a very easy target as most other young German men and older teenagers who survived WWII, more or less every German male born between 1915 and 1930 served in the military. You can just see the Pope as a other example, who is blamed for being (quite involuntary) member of the Hitler Jugend and his service in the Wehrmacht.
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« Reply #14 on: April 08, 2012, 06:57:30 pm »
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Grass is also a very easy target as most other young German men and older teenagers who survived WWII, more or less every German male born between 1915 and 1930 served in the military. You can just see the Pope as a other example, who is blamed for being (quite involuntary) member of the Hitler Jugend and his service in the Wehrmacht.

Pretty much as Kashubians, Silesians, Luxembourgian, many of whom were involuntairly drafted into Wehrmacht by occupants. Well, I suppouse for some they are just HPs because of this, in fact, tragedy :/
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« Reply #15 on: April 08, 2012, 07:02:11 pm »
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Also, I'm wondering if Israeli government and establishment are aware that playing "you're an anti-semite if you criticize Israeli politics" does not help Israel abroad?

Heh, I always supported Israel's right to existence, but I certainly do not support many of their policies. I guess I'm a vile anti-semite who should die painfully, as one teenager with brain of an ant said few posts above Roll Eyes

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« Reply #16 on: April 09, 2012, 03:47:19 am »
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If we adopt the attitude that not supporting Israels occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is antisemitic
we are being antisemitic.
That has ever been my take on that kind of attitude, anyways.
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« Reply #17 on: April 09, 2012, 04:33:53 am »
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Israeli interior minister Eli Yishai has banned Günter Grass from entering Israel.

Which means that Yishai is still the same moron who once wished that a cure for the condition of homosexuality would be discovered, among other moronic things. Tongue
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« Reply #18 on: April 09, 2012, 06:08:14 am »
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Israeli interior minister Eli Yishai has banned Günter Grass from entering Israel.

That'll teach him!
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« Reply #19 on: April 09, 2012, 07:00:38 am »
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Israeli interior minister Eli Yishai has banned Günter Grass from entering Israel.

That'll teach him!

It's a basic thing for a country to be able to decide who can and can't enter the country and an activist against that country seems like a good candidate for being banned, so I really don't see any problem with this.
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« Reply #20 on: April 09, 2012, 07:02:58 am »
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Israeli interior minister Eli Yishai has banned Günter Grass from entering Israel.

That'll teach him!

It's a basic thing for a country to be able to decide who can and can't enter the country and an activist against that country seems like a good candidate for being banned, so I really don't see any problem with this.

It could also be argued that a democratic country that tolerates differences of opinion, although they, as a sovereign state, have this power....would choose not to excercise it. I don't think you'll find that the United States or Germany...or other Western countries regularly ban people from entering for expressing political views that are unfavorbale to the people in power in that country.
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« Reply #21 on: April 09, 2012, 07:08:28 am »
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I don't think you'll find that the United States or Germany...or other Western countries regularly ban people from entering for expressing political views that are unfavorbale to the people in power in that country.

I don't know; it certainly used to happen quite a bit. Though clearly a ridiculous overreaction in this case; everyone involved in this bit of idiocy really needs to calm the fyck down and get over themselves.
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« Reply #22 on: April 09, 2012, 07:17:47 am »
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The US under Bush wasn't letting José Bové in. Of course in that case, there's the pretext of the political convictions.

Third world oppositionals and intellectuals have, in the post 2001 world, largely stopped to bother trying to visit the first world unless with an invitation from an absolutely bonafide government invitation.

Of course, such a declaration without a conviction or anything of that sort, and without visa request in the first place... no, can't remember of a case of that against a first world citizen in the post 1989 world.
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« Reply #23 on: April 09, 2012, 07:26:13 am »
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The US under Bush wasn't letting José Bové in.

DANGEROUS TERRORIST

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22:15   ComradeSibboleth   this is all extremely terrible and in all respects absolutely fycking dire.

It really is.



"A reformist is someone who realizes that, when you bang your head on a wall, it's the head that breaks rather than the wall."

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« Reply #24 on: April 09, 2012, 07:28:14 am »
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The US under Bush wasn't letting José Bové in.

DANGEROUS TERRORIST


He even looks vaguely Grasslike in that picture!
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"The secret to having a rewarding work-life balance is to have no life. Then it's easy to keep things balanced by doing no work." Wally



"Our party do not have any ideology... Our main aim is to grab power ... Every one is doing so but I say it openly." Keshav Dev Maurya
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