Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Monday that the death of German author Guenter Grass meant that Europe had lost a “cultural point of reference” and that Greece had lost a “valuable friend.”
“Greece has lost a valuable friend that was not reluctant to stand next to the Greek people in the difficult times of the Greek crisis, when the use of stereotypes against Greece was at its peak,” said the Greek premier in a statement after it was announced that Grass died at the age of 87.
In May 2012, Grass published a poem called “Europe’s Shame” in the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung that blasted the way the Greek crisis had been dealt with.
Greece was being disparaged as a country “below junk value,” Grass wrote in his poem. He said Greece was being “abandoned as a naked debtor in the dock, a country suffers… and is condemned to poverty.”
Grass was lauded by Germans for helping to revive their culture in the aftermath of World War II, and giving voice and support to democratic discourse in the postwar nation.
A trained sculptor, Grass made his literary reputation with «The Tin Drum,» published in 1959. The book follows the life of a young boy in Danzig who is caught up in the political whirlwind of the Nazi rise to power and, in response, decides not to grow up. His toy drum becomes a symbol of this refusal.
Three decades after its release, in 1999, the Swedish Academy honored Grass with the Nobel Prize for literature, praising him for setting out to revive German literature after the Nazi era.
With «The Tin Drum,» the Nobel Academy said, «it was as if German literature had been granted a new beginning after decades of linguistic and moral destruction.”
In his condolences, Tsipras noted that Grass had a considerable political and social impact.
“Guenter Grass was not just a virtuoso Nobel laureate of the written work but also an intellectual who fought for democracy and social activism,” said the Greek premier. “The Tin Drum is an indelible landmark in European political and anti-fascist literature.
[Kathimerini English Edition & AP]