I recently tried to read what is considered to be one of the classics of modern European fiction, Gunter Grass’ The Tin Drum. Originally published over 40 years ago, Grass’ novel is beautifully written, full of insight and wit, and thoroughly unreadable. I first tried to get through it as a senior in high school and managed a couple of hundred pages before I gave up in bewilderment. Now, 40-odd years later, I managed nearly twice that before giving up in frustration.
The Tin Drum‘s primary problem is the near-total unpleasantness and impenetrability of its narrator, a 3-ft dwarf named Oskar who claims to have dedicated himself to the beauties of drumming on a hunk of enameled tin mere minutes after leaving the birth canal. He also insists that at the age of 3 he decided he didn’t like the adult world and promptly forced himself to stop growing so that he could remain a 3-yr-old forever.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Oskar is currently living in a mental institution.