The final work of Nobel Prize–winning writer Günter Grass—a witty and elegiac series of meditations on writing, growing old, and living in the world
The final work of the Nobel Prize winner Günter Grass—a witty and elegiac series of meditations on writing, growing old, the world
In spite of the trials of old age, and with the end in sight, suddenly everything seems possible again: love letters, soliloquies, scenes of jealousy, swan songs, social satire, and moments of happiness crowd onto the page.
Only an aging artist who has once more cheated death can set to work with such wisdom, defiance, and wit. A wealth of touching stories is condensed into artful miniatures. In a striking interplay of poetry, lyric prose, and drawings, the Nobel Prize-winning author creates his final major work of art.
A moving farewell gift, a sensual, melancholy summation of a life fully lived.
FREE AS A BIRD
When the pipe smoker’s heart, lung, and kidneys sent him to the workshop for yet another stay, hooked him up to an intravenous drip, a wretched fellow, and forced him to swallow a growing pile of pills ?— ?round, oblong, brightly colored ?— ?all whispering warnings on their side effects; when grumpy old age kept asking peevishly “How much longer?” and “What’s the point?” and neither lines of ink nor strings of words flowed from his hand; when the world with its wars and collateral damage slipped away, and he sought only sleep, a sleep torn to rags, and estranged from himself he began to lick his wounds in self-pity; when the last fountain had run dry, I was revived, as if mouth-to-mouth resuscitation were still in use, by the moist kiss of a part-time muse on call, and images and words came crowding in; paper, pencil, brush lay close at hand, autumnal Nature made its frail offering, watercolors began to flow; I delighted in scribbling and, fearing a relapse, began eagerly to live again.
To feel myself. Light as a feather free as a bird, though long since fit to be shot down. Unleash the dog with no sense of shame. Become this or that. Awaken the dead. Wear my pal Baldanders’ rags for a change. Lose my way on a single-minded quest. Seek refuge among ink-lined shadows. Say: Now!
It seemed as if I could change skins, grasp the thread, cut the knot, as if this rediscovered happiness had a name I could say again.
ON EACH NEW LEAF
With red chalk, lead, graphite,
with goose-quill and ink pen,
with sharp pencils, full brush,
and charcoal from Siberia’s woods,
with watercolors damp on damp,
then back to black and white ?— ?
to scales of layered grays,
bring forth the shadows’ silver gleam;
and since from death-like death
the muse’s kiss first startled me,
forcing me stark-bare naked
I’ve looked on each new leaf in turn,
obsessed by yellow,
enflamed by red,
faded by fall,
hoping the green would wake again,
seeking the way out, wafting gently,
like a feather falling from the blue.
SEPIA AU NATUREL
Again and again the dream where I milk a midsize squid. It’s easy underwater, like making love to a daring mermaid strayed from her flock.
You swim up from behind, quite innocently, stay patient, and when the moment is right, attach the pump to the muscular opening of the gland and activate it by pressing a small button. Soon, half forced, half willingly, the squid expels what’s normally released as a dark cloud to befog a nearby enemy.
That happened a lot at first, when I was in too great a hurry to harvest the inky brew. Time would go by and still nothing. I would run out of breath. Surface, then try again. Milking squids, like pleasuring mermaids, takes practice.
Since then black milk stands stored in canning jars, a borrowed metaphor. A soupy extract used for pen and brittle brush drawings alike. Washed they reveal streaks of a slimy substance.
The drawings retain the smell long after, at first fresh, then increasingly pungent; especially on days of high humidity, the squid-ink ink recalls its origin.
USA Today "New and Noteworthy"
“[A] beautifully produced assemblage of drawings, poems, recollections, laments, asides, diatribes and paeans to love …There is a lovely diversity to these pieces…A sharp sensuality is at play here too. Grass celebrates as he mourns, be it the diminishing of taste — his beloved offal! — or the cessation of physical love. Against these deficits, his intelligence and intellectual engagement remain fiercely undimmed.”—THE FINANCIAL TIMES
“Grass’s wit is on full display as he explores not just what he is losing — his teeth, his beloved friends — but in how the approach of death and the writing process itself spur him to live as fully as he can… The book provides a quirky final portrait of this beloved and controversial writer. Grass knows how to balance his interior and exterior worlds and how to tell stories in miniature; scattered throughout are tight, fragmentary poems that provide lovely bursts of imagery.”—THE WASHINGTON POST
"Günter Grass contemplates his mortality and the fate of a world he's soon to depart. He does so with morbid wit and more than a trace of sorrow… The message of this moving collection is clear: life ends, but assuming you're in control of the matter, that's no reason to limp across the finish line."—SHELF AWARENESS
"Nobel Prize winner Günter Grass’s final work demonstrates how Of All That Ends, his legacy lives on."—VANITY FAIR, "The Must-Read Books of the Holiday Season"
“Always thinking, always musing, reflecting on the ordinary and the familiar, above all on the defining beauty of nature, the inimitable German fabulist Günter Grass, multi-talented artist, storyteller and witness, never tired of the business of living, not even as the end approached. Here is a final book like no other; there is no sorrow, no self-pity, just a rueful, yet characteristically, exuberant acceptance that for him time has almost run out and the message is clear – he has not quite finished with looking at the world, nor has he lost interest in expressing his opinions. This posthumous collection of meditations and snatches of memory is touching and witty, at times unnervingly philosophical. The master prepares to take his leave and, as always with Grass, not without an element of surprise and rakish panache, always the subversive aside…The graceful soft pencil drawings accompanying his poems and prose pieces are as simple and direct as the thoughts expressed… It is a tactile book aware of mortality, but it is also conversational in tone and rich in playful, blunt humour, which is lovingly conveyed by Breon Mitchell… There is a vibrant physicality about this book; it offers an insight into a sensual artistic imagination which was fully three-dimensional. It is similar to experiencing the late works of Picasso with their aura of defiant energy… As subtle and as delicate as the many feathers depicted through its pages, Of All That Ends is a glorious gift, a final salute true to the singular creativity of the most human, and humane, of artists…Grass was an original and this beguiling leave taking most brilliantly testifies to that.”—IRISH TIMES
“A series of absorbing meditations on growing old, looking back and preparing to move on…Grass’s swansong now appears in English (superbly translated by Breon Mitchell), enabling a wider audience to marvel at a unique talent reflecting on individual concerns, worldly issues and universal mysteries…His book comes filled with his pencil drawings of nature at the end of its cycle (rotting fruit, withering leaves, dead birds) and a range of elegiac, impressionistic short-form writing, encompassing prose, poetry and striking fusions of the two…Many of Grass’s written pieces read like ruminative diary entries or contemplative personal notes…we can’t help but smile at his Luddite principles or his curmudgeonly rant against the worldwide web…satisfying… this special book will remain a last hurrah and a lasting reminder of a great writer.”—Malcom Forbes, for THE NATIONAL (UAE)
“Only an aging artist who has once more cheated death can set to work with such wisdom, defiance and wit. A wealth of touching stories is condensed into artful miniatures. In a striking interplay of poetry, lyric prose and drawings, Nobel Prize-winning author Günter Grass creates his final major work of art.”—BOOK REPORTER
“A thoughtful, uncompromising meditation on death and aging... He describes loss, change, and memory with a combination of melancholy and wit; and occasionally with defiance.” —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
“Elegant musings on dying and, most poignantly, living.” —KIRKUS REVIEWS
“Some pieces are prose, some sway into poetry, some others feel like the contemplative diary entries of a man who knows the end is near. . . . Many sentences retain a defiant energy admirers of this literary lightning-rod will instantly recognize, but Grass’s drawings of dead birds, crumpled leaves, mutilated hands, and various vegetative material point in a more musing direction.” —BOOKLIST
“Grass’s wit is on full display as he explores not just what he is losing — his teeth, his beloved friends — but in how the approach of death and the writing process itself spur him to live as fully as he can… The book provides a quirky final portrait of this beloved and controversial writer. Grass knows how to balance his interior and exterior worlds and how to tell stories in miniature; scattered throughout are tight, fragmentary poems that provide lovely bursts of imagery.”—HOUSTON CHRONICLE
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