Others claim to have seen the dike keeper on his white horse. But the insurance company refuses to believe either in burrowing mice or in the dike keeper from Gttland. When the mice made the dike burst, the white horse, so the legend has it, leapt into the rising waters with the dike keeper, but it didn't help much: for the Vistula took all the dike keepers. And the Vistula took the Catholic mice from the Polish country. And it took the rough Mennonites with hooks and eyes but without pockets, took the more refined Mennonites with buttons, buttonholes, and diabolical pockets, it also took Gttland's three Protestants and the teacher, the Socialist.
It took Gttland's lowing cattle and Gttland's carved cradles, it took all Gttland: Gttland's beds and Gttland's cupboards, Gttland's clocks. All that and more rushed by. What does a river like the Vistula carry away with it? Everything that goes to pieces: wood, glass, pencils, pacts between Brauxel and Brauchsel, chairs, bones, and sunsets too. What had long been forgotten rose to memory, floating on its back or stomach, with the help of the Vistula: Pomeranian princes.
Adalbert came. Adalbert comes on foot and dies by the ax. But Duke Swantopolk allowed himself to be baptized. What will become of Mestwin's daughters? Is one of them running away bare foot?
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Who will carry her off? The giant Miligedo with his lead club? Or one of the ancient gods? The fiery-red Perkunos? The pale Pikollos, who is always looking up from below? The boy Potrimpos laughs and chews at his ear of wheat. Sacred oaks are felled. Grinding teeth -- And Duke Kynstute's young daughter, who entered a convent: twelve headless knights and twelve headless nuns are dancing in the mill: the mill turns slow, the mill turns faster, it grinds the little souls to plaster; the mill turns slow, the mill speeds up, she has drunk with twelve knights from the selfsame cup; the mill turns slow, the mill speeds up, twelve knights twelve nuns in the cellar sup; the mill turns slow, the mill turns faster, they're feasting Candlemas with farting and laughter: the mill turns slow, the mill turns faster.
Bruno passed through the fire and Bobrowski the robber with his crony Materna, with whom it all began, set fires in houses that had been previously notched -sunsets, sunsets -- Napoleon before and after: then the city was ingeniously besieged, for several times they tried out Congreve rockets, with varying success: but in the city and on the walls, on Wolf, Bear, and Bay Horse Bastions, on Renegade, Maidenhole, and Rabbit Bastions, the French under Rapp coughed, the Poles under their prince Radziwil spat, the corps of the one-armed Capitaine de Chambure hawked.
But on the fifth of August came the St. Dominic's Flood, climbed Bay Horse, Rabbit, and Renegade Bastions without a ladder, wet the powder, made the Congreve rockets fizzle out, and carried a good deal of fish, mostly pike, into the streets and kitchens: everyone was miraculously replenished, although the granaries along Hopfengasse had long since burned down -- sunsets. Amazing how many things are becoming to the Vistula, how many things color a river like the Vistula: sunsets, blood, mud, and ashes. Actually the wind ought to have them.
Orders are not always carried out; rivers that set out for heaven empty into the Vistula. And on Nickelswalde dike stands Walter Matern with grinding teeth; for the sun is setting. Swept bare, the dikes taper away in the distance. Only the sails of the windmills, blunt steeples, and poplars -- Napoleon had those planted for his artillery -- stick to the tops of the dikes. He alone is standing. Except maybe for the dog. But he's gone off, now here now there. Behind him, vanishing in the shadow and below the surface of the river, lies the Island, smelling of butter, curds, dairies, a wholesome, nauseatingly milky smell.
Nine years old, legs apart, with red and blue March knees, stands Walter Matern, spreads. There aren't any stones on the dike. But he looks. He finds dry sticks. But you can't throw a dry stick against the wind. And he wants to got to wants to throw something. He could whistle for Senta, here one second gone the next, but he does no such thing, all he does is grind -- that blunts the wind -- and feels like throwing something.
He could catch Amsel's eye at the foot of the dike with a hey and a ho, but his mouth is full of grinding and not of hey and ho -- nevertheless he wants to got to wants to, but there's no stone in his pockets either; usually he has a couple in one pocket or the other. In these parts stones are called zellacken.
The Protestants say zellacken, the few Catholics zellacken. The rough Mennonites say zellacken, the refined ones zellacken. Even Amsel, who likes to be different, says zellack when he means a stone; and Senta goes for a stone when someone says: Senta, go get a zellack. Kriwe says zellacken, Kornelius Kabrun, Beister, Folchert, August Sponagel, and Frau von Ankum, the major's wife, all say zellacken; and Pastor Daniel Kliewer from Pasewark says to his congregation, rough and refined alike: "Then little David picked up a zellack and flung it at the giant Goliath.
But Walter Matern couldn't find one in either pocket. In the right pocket there was nothing but crumbs and sunflower seeds, in the left pocket, in among pieces of string and the crackling remains of grasshoppers -- while up above it grinds, while the sun has gone, while the Vistula flows, taking with it something from Gttland, something from Mantau, Amsel hunched over and the whole time clouds, while Senta upwind, the gulls downwind, the dikes bare to the horizon, while the sun is gone gone gone -- he finds his pocketknife.
Sunsets last longer in eastern than in western regions; any child knows that. There flows the Vistula from sky to opposite sky.
The Danzig Trilogy: The Tin Drum / Cat and Mouse / the Dog Years
The steam ferry puts out from the Schiewenhorst dock and bucks the current, slant-wise and bumptious, carrying two narrow-gauge freight cars to Nickelswalde, where it will put them down on the Stutthof spur. The chunk of leather known as Kriwe has just turned his cowhide face to leeward and is pattering eyelashless along the opposite dike top: a few moving sails and poplars to count. A fixed stare, no bending over, but a hand in his pocket. And the eye slides down from the embankment: a curious round something, down below, that bends over, looks as if it wants to swipe something from the Vistula.
That's Amsel, looking for old rags. What for? Any child knows that. But Leather Kriwe doesn't know what Walter Matern, who has been looking for a zellack in his pocket, has found in his pocket. While Kriwe pulls his face out of the wind, the pocketknife grows warmer in Walter Matern's hand. Amsel had given it to him. It has three blades, a corkscrew, a saw, and a leather punch. Amsel plump, pink, and comical when crying. Amsel pokes about in the muck on the ledge, for though falling-fast the Vistula is up to the dike top because there's a flood between Montau and Ksemark, and has things in it that used to be in Palschau.
Down yonder behind the dike, leaving behind a spreading red glow. In his pocket Walter Matern -- as only Brauxel can know -- clenches the knife in his fist. Amsel is a little younger than Walter Matern. Senta, far away looking for mice, is just about as black as the sky, upward from the Schiewenhorst dike, is red.
A drifting cat is caught in. Gulls multiply in flight: torn tissue paper crackles, is smoothed, is spread out wide; and the glass pinhead eyes see everything that drifts, hangs, runs, stands, or is just there, such as Amsel's two thousand freckles; also that he is wearing a helmet like those worn at Verdun. And the helmet slips forward, is pushed back over the neck, and slips again, while Amsel fishes fence laths and beanpoles, and also heavy, sodden rags out of the mud: the cat comes loose, spins downward, falls to the gulls. The mice in the dike begin to stir again. And the ferry is still coming closer.
A dead yellow dog comes drifting and turns over. Senta is facing into the wind. Slantwise and bumptious the ferry transports its two freight cars. Down drifts a calf -- dead. The wind falters but does not turn. The gulls stop still in mid-air, hesitating. Now Walter Matern -- while the ferry, the wind and the calf and the sun behind the dike and the mice in the dike and the motionless gulls -- has pulled his fist out of his pocket with the knife in it.
While the Vistula flows, he holds it out in front of his sweater and makes his knuckles chalky white against the deepening red glow. Every child knows why the Hundred and Twentieth Infantry Regiment had to abandon in Bohnsack the steel helmet Amsel is wearing, as well as other steel helmets, a stock of fatigue uniforms, and several field kitchens, when it pulled out by train in ' The cat is back again. Every child knows that it's not the same cat, but the mice don't know and the gulls don't know. The cat is wet wet wet.
Now something drifts by that is neither a dog nor a sheep. It's a clothes cupboard. The cupboard does not collide with the ferry. And as Amsel pulls a beanpole out of the mud and Walter Matern's fist begins to quiver around the knife, a cat finds freedom: it drifts out toward the open sea that reaches as far as the sky. The gulls grow fewer, the mice in the dike scamper, the Vistula flows, the fist around the knife quivers, the wind's name is Northwest, the dikes taper away, the open sea resists the river with everything it's got, still and for evermore the sun goes down, still and for evermore the ferry and two freight cars move closer: the ferry does not capsize, the dikes do not burst, the mice are not afraid, the sun has no intention of turning back, the Vistula has no intention of turning back, the ferry has no intention of turning back, the cat has no, the gulls have no, nor the clouds nor the infantry regiment, Senta has no intention of going back to the wolves, but merrily merrily.
And Walter Matern has no intention of letting the pocketknife given him by Amsel short fat round return to his pocket; on the contrary, his fist around the knife manages to turn a shade chalkier. And up above teeth grind from left to right.
While it flows approaches sinks drifts whirls rises and falls, the fist relaxes around the knife, so that all the expelled blood rushes back into the now loosely closed hand: Walter Matern thrusts the fist holding the now thoroughly warmed object behind him, stands on one leg, foot, ball of foot, on five toes in a high shoe, lifts his weight sockless in the shoe, lets his entire weight slip into the hand behind him, takes no aim, almost stops grinding; and in that flowing drifting setting lost moment -- for even Brauchsel cannot save it, because he has.
The inner surface of the hand still shows pressure marks made by the self same knife, with which Walter Matern and Eduard Amsel, when they were eight years old and intent on blood brotherhood, had scored their arms, because Kornelius Kabrun, who had been in German Southwest Africa and knew about Hottentots, had told them how it was done. FOURTH MORNING SHIFT Meanwhile -- for while Brauxel lays bare the past of a pocket-knife and the same knife, turned missile, follows a trajectory determined by propulsive force, gravitation, and wind resistance, there is still time enough, from morning shift to morning shift, to write off a working day and meanwhile to say -- meanwhile, then, Amsel with the back of his hand had pushed back his steel helmet.
With one glance he swept the dike embankment, with the same glance took in the thrower, then sent his glance in pursuit of the thrown object; and the pocketknife, Brauxel maintains, has meanwhile reached the ultimate point allotted to every upward-striving object, while the Vistula flows, the cat drifts, the gull screams, the ferry approaches, while the bitch Senta is black, and the sun never ceases to set.
Meanwhile -- for when a missile has reached that infinitesimal point after which descent begins, it hesitates for a moment, and pretends to stand still -- while then the pocket-knife stands still at its zenith, Amsel tears his gaze away from the object that has reached this infinitesimal point and once more -- the object is already falling quickly fitfully, because now more exposed to the head wind, riverward -- has his eye on his friend Matern who is still teetering on the ball of his foot and his toes sockless in high shoe, holding his right hand high and far from his body, while his left arm steers and tries to keep him in balance.
Meanwhile -- for while Walter Matern teeters on one leg, concerned with his balance, while Vistula and cat, mice and ferry, dog and sun, while the pocketknife falls riverward, the morning shift has been lowered into Brauchsel's mine, the night shift has been raised and has ridden away on bicycles, the changehouse attendant has locked the change-house, the sparrows in every gutter have begun the day.
At this point Amsel succeeded, with a brief glance and a directly ensuing cry, in throwing Walter Matern off his precarious balance. The boy on the top of the Nickelswalde dike did not fall, but he. Grind your teeth and throw things? I had to throw. What's the use of asking questions? Anybody can say that.
You try and send a dog anyplace when she's chasing mice. I threw some dingbat. You saw me. Don't be an Indian giver. If I'd had a zellack, I wouldn't of thrown the knife, I'd of thrown the zellack. Couldn't you tell me you couldn't find a zellack, I'd have tossed you one, there's plenty of them down here. Amsel reaches his hand with its many freckles up the dike, Walter Matern reaches his hand with the pressure marks left by the pocketknife down the dike and with the handshake pulls Amsel up on the dike top. Amsel is still friendly.
All she does is grind the coupla teeth she's still got the whole time. Except she don't throw things. Only hits people with her spoon. As he speaks, his thumb points over his shoulder to the spot where behind the dike lies the village of Nickelswalde and the Materns' postmill. Up the side of the dike Amsel pulls a bundle of roof laths, beanpoles, and wrung-out rags. He keeps having to push up the front rim of his steel helmet with the back of his hand. The ferry has tied up at the Nickelswalde dock. The two freight cars can be heard. Senta grows larger, smaller, larger, approaches black.
More small farm animals drift by. Broad-shouldered flows the Vistula. Walter Matern wraps his right hand in the lower frayed edge of his sweater. Senta stands on four legs between the two of them. Her tongue hangs out to leftward and twitches. She keeps looking at. Walter Matern, because his teeth. He has that from his grandmother who was riveted to her chair for nine years and only her eyeballs. Now they have taken off: one taller, one smaller on the dike top against the ferry landing. The dog black. Half a pace ahead: Amsel. Half a pace behind: Walter Matern. He is dragging Amsel's rags.
Behind the bundle, as the three grow smaller on the dike, the grass gradually straightens up again. It still amuses him to recall every detail: Many many years ago, when the child had been born but was not yet able to grind his teeth because like all babies he had been born toothless, Grandma Matern was sitting riveted to her chair in the overhang room, unable as she had been for the last nine years to move anything except her eyeballs, capable only of bubbling and drooling. The overhang room jutted out over the kitchen, it had one window looking out on the kitchen, from which the maids could be observed at work, and another window in back, facing the Matern windmill, which sat there on its jack, with its tailpole pivoting on its post and was accordingly a genuine postmill; as it had been for a hundred years.
The Materns had built it in , shortly after the city and fortress of Danzig had been taken by the victorious Russian and Prussian armies; for August Matern, the grandfather of our grandmother sitting there riveted to her chair, had managed, during the long-drawn-out and listlessly conducted siege, to carry on a lucrative trade with both sides; on the one hand, he began in the spring to supply scaling ladders in exchange for good convention talers; on the other hand, he arranged, in return for Laubtalers and even more substantial Brabant currency, to smuggle little notes in to General Count d'Heudelet, calling his attention to the odd conduct of the Russians who were having quantities of ladders made, though it was only spring and the apples were in no shape to be picked.
When at length the governor, Count Rapp, signed the capitulation of the fortress, August Matern in out-of-the-way Nickelswalde counted the Danish specie and two-thirds pieces, the quickly rising rubles, the Hamburg mark pieces, the Laubtalers and convention talers, the little bags of Dutch gulden and the newly issued Danzig paper money; he found himself nicely off and abandoned himself to the joys of reconstruction: he had the old mill, where the fugitive Queen Louise is said to have spent the night after the defeat of Prussia, the historical mill whose sails had been damaged first on the occasion of the Danish attack from the sea, then of the night skirmish resulting from a sortie on the part of Capitaine de Chambure and his volunteer corps, torn down except for the jack which was still in good condition, and on the old jack built the new mill which was still sitting there with its pole on its jack when Grandmother Matern was reduced to sitting riveted and motionless in her chair.
At this point Brauxel wishes, before it is too late, to concede that with his money, some hard, some easy-earned, August Matern not only built the new postmill, but also endowed the little chapel in Steegen, which numbered a few Catholics, with a Madonna, who, though not wanting in gold leaf,. The Catholicism of the Matern family, as one might expect of a family of millers, was dependent on the wind, and since there was always a profitable breeze on the Island, the Matern mill ran year in year out, deterring them from the excessive churchgoing that would have antagonized the Mennonites.
Only baptisms and funerals, marriages and the more important holidays sent part of the family to Steegen; and once a year on Corpus Christi, when the Catholics of Steegen put on a procession through the countryside, the mill, with its jack and all its dowels, with its mill post, its oak lever, and its meal bin, but most of all with its sails, came in for its share of blessing and holy water; a luxury which the Materns could never have afforded in such rough-Mennonite villages as Junkeracker and Pasewark. The Mennonites of Nickelswalde, who all raised wheat on rich Island soil and were dependent on the Catholic mill, proved to be the more refined type of Mennonites, in other words, they had buttons, buttonholes, and normal pockets that it was possible to put something into.
Only Simon Beister, fisherman and small holder, was a genuine hook-and-eye Mennonite, rough and pocketless; over his boatshed hung a painted wooden sign with the ornate inscription: Wear hooks and eyes, Dear Jesus will save you. Wear buttons and pockets, The Devil will have you.
But Simon Beister was and remained the only inhabitant of Nickelswalde to have his wheat milled in Pasewark and not in the Catholic mill. Even so, it was not necessarily he who in '13, shortly before the outbreak of the Great War, incited a degenerate farmhand to haul kindling of all sorts to the Matern postmill and set it on fire. The flames were already creeping under jack and pole when Perkun, the young shepherd dog belonging to Pawel the miller's man, whom everyone called Paulchen, began, black and with tail straight back, to describe narrowing circles around hummock, jack, and mill, and brought miller's man and miller running out of the house with his staccato barks.
Pawel or Paul had brought the animal with him from Lithuania and on request exhibited a kind of pedigree, which made it clear to whom it may concern that Perkun's grand mother on her father's side had been a Lithuanian, Russian, or Polish she-wolf. But for the present Grandma Matern is still sitting riveted to her chair, able to move only her eyeballs. She is obliged to look on inactive as her daughterin-law carries on in the house, her son in the mill, and her daughter Lorchen with the miller's man. But the war took the miller's man and Lorchen went out of her mind: after that, in the house, in the kitchen garden, on the dikes, in the nettles behind Folchert's barn, on the near side and far side of the dunes, barefoot on the beach and in among the blueberry bushes in the nearby woods, she goes looking for her Paulchen, and never will she know whether it was the Prussians or the Russians who sent him crawling underground.
The gentle old maid's only companion is the dog Perkun, whose master had been her master. SIXTH MORNING SHIFT Long long ago -- Brauxel counts on his fingers -- when the world was in the third year of the war, when Paulchen had been left behind in Masuria, Lorchen was roaming about with the dog, but miller Matern was permitted to go on toting bags of flour, because he was hard of hearing on both sides, Grandma Matern sat one sunny day, while a child was being baptized -- the pocketknife-throwing youngster of earlier morning shifts was receiving the name Walter -- riveted to her chair, rolling her eyeballs, bubbling and drooling but unable to compose one word.
She sat in the overhang room and was assailed by mad shadows. She flared up, faded in the half-darkness, sat bright, sat somber. Pieces of furniture as well, the headpiece of the tall carved cupboard, the embossed cover of the chest, and the red, for nine years unused, velvet of the prie-dieu flared up, faded, disclosed silhouettes, resumed their massive gloom: glittering dust, dustless shadow over grandmother and her furniture.
Her bonnet and the glass-blue drinking cup on the cupboard. The frayed sleeves of her bedjacket. The floor scrubbed lusterless, over which the turtle, roughly the size of a man's hand, given to her by Paul the miller's man, moved from corner to corner, glittered and survived the miller's man by nibbling little scallops out of the edges of lettuce leaves. And all the lettuce leaves scattered about the room with their turtle-scallops were struck bright bright bright; for outside, behind the house, the Matern postmill, in a wind blowing thirty-nine feet a second, was grinding wheat into flour, blotting out the sun with its four sails four times in three-and-a-half seconds.
Concurrently with these demonic dazzling-dark goings-on in Grandma's room, the child was being driven to Steegen by way of Pasewark and Junkeracker to be baptized, the sunflowers by the fence separating the Matern kitchen garden from the road grew larger and larger, worshiped one another and were glorified without interruption by the very same sun which was blotted out four times in three-and-a-half seconds by the sails of the windmill; for the mill had not thrust itself between sun and sunflowers, but only, and this in the forenoon, between the riveted grandmother and a sun which shone not always but often on the Island.
How many years had Grandma been sitting motionless? Nine years in the overhang room. How long behind asters, ice flowers, sweet peas, or convolvulus? Nine years bright dark bright to one side of the windmill. Who had riveted her so solidly to her chair?
Her daughter-in-law Ernestine, ne Stange. How could such a thing come to pass? This Protestant woman from Junkeracker had first expelled Tilde Matern, who was not yet a grandmother, but more on the strapping loud-mouthed side, from the kitchen; then she had appropriated the living room and taken to washing windows on Corpus Christi. When Stine drove her mother-in-law out of the barn, they came to blows for the first time.
The two of them went at each other with feed pans in among the chickens, who lost quite a few feathers on the occasion. This, Brauxel counts back, must have happened in ; for when two years later Stine Matern, ne Stange, still failed to clamor for green apples and sour pickles and. It nibbles everything away so nothing can come out. All it does is stink! For nine years now she had been sitting in this chair except when Lorchen and the maids, for reasons of cleanliness, lifted her out just long enough to minister to her needs.
When the nine years were past and it had developed that the wombs of Protestant women do not harbor a diabolical mouse that nibbles everything away and won't let anything germinate, when, on the contrary, something came full term, was born as a son, and had his umbilical cord cut, Grandmother sat, was still sitting, while the christening was proceeding in Steegen under favorable weather conditions, still and forever riveted, in the overhang room.
Below the room, in the kitchen, a goose lay in the oven, sizzling in its own fat. This the goose did in the third year of the Great War, when geese had become so rare that the goose was looked upon as a species close to extinction. Lorchen Matern with her birthmark, her flat bosom, her curly hair, Lorchen, who had never got a husband -- because Paulchen had crawled into the earth, leaving nothing but his black dog behind -- Lorchen, who was supposed to be looking after the goose in the oven, was not in the kitchen, didn't baste the goose at all, neglected to turn it, to say the proper charms over it, but stood in a row with the sunflowers behind the fence -- which the new miller's man had freshly whitewashed that spring -- and spoke first in a friendly, then in an anxious tone, two sentences angrily, then lovingly, to someone who was not standing behind the fence, who was not passing by in greased yet squeaky shoes, who wore no baggy trousers, and who was nevertheless addressed as Paul or Paulchen and expected to return to her, Lorchen Matern with the watery eyes, something he had taken from her.
Günter Grass Dog Years / Hundejahre
But Paul did not give it back, although the time of day was favorable -- plenty of silence, or at any rate buzzing -- and the wind blowing at a velocity of twenty-six feet a second had boots big enough to kick the mill on its jack in such a way that it turned a mite faster than the wind and was able in one uninterrupted session to transform Miehlke's -- for it was his milling day -- wheat into Miehlke's flour.
For even though a miller's son was being baptized in Steegen's wooden chapel, Matern's mill did not stand still. If a milling wind was blowing, there had to be milling. A windmill knows only days with and days without milling wind. Lorchen Matern knew only days when Paulchen passed by and days when nothing passed by and no one stopped at the fence.
Because the mill was milling, Paulchen came by and stopped. Perkun barked. Far behind Napoleon's poplars, behind Folchert's, Miehlke's, Kabrun's, Beister's, Mombert's, and Kriwe's farmhouses, behind the flat-roofed school, and Lhrmann's taproom and milk pool, the cows lowed by turns. And Lorchen said lovingly "Paulchen," several times "Paulchen," and while the goose in the oven, unbasted, unspoken-to, and never turned, grew steadily crisper and more dominical, she said: "Aw, give it back. Aw, don't be like that. Aw, don't act like that. Aw, give it back, 'cause I need it. Aw, give it, and don't be, not giving it to me.
The dog Perkun turned his head on his neck and. Under the cows, milk accumulated. The windmill sat with pole on jack and milled. Sunflowers recited sunflower prayers to each other. The air buzzed. And the goose in the oven began to burn, first slowly, then so fast and pungently that Grandmother Matern in her over hang room above the kitchen set her eyeballs spuming faster than the sails of the windmill were able to.
While in Steegen the baptismal chapel was forsaken, while in the overhang room the turtle, hand-size, moved from one scrubbed plank to the next, she, because of the burnt goose fumes rising to the overhang room, began bright dark bright to drivel and drool and wheeze. First she blew hairs, such as all grand mothers have in their noses, out through nostrils, but when bitter fumes quivered bright through the whole room, making the turtle pause bewildered and the lettuce leaves shrivel, what issued from her nostrils was no longer hairs but steam.
Nine years of grandmotherly indignation were discharged: the grandmotherly locomotive started up. Vesuvius and Etna. The Devil's favorite element, fire, made the unleashed grandmother quiver, contribute dragonlike to the chiaroscuro, and attempt, amid changing light after nine years, a dry grinding of the teeth; and she succeeded: from left to right, set on edge by the acrid smell, her last remaining stumps rubbed against each other; and in the end a cracking and splintering mingled with the dragon's fuming, the expulsion of steam, the spewing of fire, the grinding of teeth: the oaken chair, fashioned in pre-Napoleonic times, the chair which had sustained the grandmother for nine years except for brief interruptions in behalf of cleanliness, gave up and disintegrated just as the turtle leapt high from the floor and landed on its back.
At the same time several stove tiles sprung netlike cracks. Down below the goose burst open, letting the stuffing gush out. The chair disintegrated into powdery wood meal, rose up in a cloud which proliferated, a sumptuously illumined monument to transience, and settled on Grandmother Matern, who had not, as might be supposed, taken her cue from the chair and turned to grandmotherly dust. What lay on shriveled salad leaves, on the turtle turned turtle, on furniture and floor, was merely the dust of pulverized oakwood; she, the terrible one, did not lie, but stood crackling and electric, struck bright, struck dark by the play of the windmill sails, upright amid dust and decay, ground her teeth from left to right, and grinding took the first step: stepped from bright to dark, stepped over the turtle, who was getting ready to give up the ghost, whose belly was a beautiful sulphur-yellow, after nine years of sitting still took purposive steps, did not slip on lettuce leaves, kicked open the door of the overhang room, descended, a paragon of grandmotherhood, the kitchen stairs in felt shoes, and standing now on stone flags and sawdust took something from a shelf with both hands, and attempted, with grandmotherly cooking stratagems, to save the acridly burning baptismal goose.
And she did manage to save a little by scratching away the charred part, dousing the flames, and turning the goose over. But everyone who had ears in Nickelswalde could hear Grandmother Matern, still engaged in her rescue operations, screaming with terrifying distinctness out of a well-rested throat: "You hussy! Lorchen, you hussy! I'll cook your, you hussy. Damn hussy! Hussy, you hussy! To the left she stepped in the strawberries, to the right in the cauliflowers, for the first time in years she was back again among the broad beans, but an instant later behind and between the sunflowers, raising her right arm high and bringing it down, supported in every movement by the regular turning of the windmill sails, on poor Lorchen, also on the sunflowers, but not on.
Perkun, who leapt away black between the bean trellises. In spite of the blows and though quite without Paulchen, poor Lorchen whimpered in his direction: "Oh help me please, Paulchen, oh do help me, Paulchen. You hussy you! You damn hussy! Wouldn't it have been miracle enough if the good woman had simply and somewhat stiffly stood up and gone down to the kitchen to rescue the goose? Was it necessary to have her puff steam and spit fire?
Did stove tiles have to crack and lettuce leaves shrivel? Did he need the moribund turtle and the pulverized armchair? If nevertheless Brauksel, today a sober-minded man at home in a free-market economy, replies in the affirmative and insists on fire and steam, he will have to give his reasons. There was and remains only one reason for his elaborate staging of the grandmotherly resurrection scene: the Materns, especially the teeth-grinding branch of the family, descended from the medieval robber Materna, by way of Grandma, who was a genuine Matern -- she had married her cousin -- down to the baptizand Walter Matern, had an innate feeling for grandiose, nay operatic scenes; and the truth of the matter is that in May , Grandmother Matern did not just go down quietly to rescue the goose as a matter of course, but began by setting off the above-described fireworks.
It must furthermore be said that while Grandmother Matern was trying to save the goose and immediately thereafter belaboring poor Lorchen with a cooking spoon, the three two-horse carriages bearing the hungry christening party were rolling past Junkeracker and Pasewark on their way from Steegen. And much as Brauxel may be tempted to record the ensuing christening dinner -- because the goose didn't yield enough, preserved giblets and pickled pork were brought up from the cellar -- he must nevertheless let the christening party sit down to dinner without witnesses.
No one will ever learn how the Romeikes and the Kabruns, how Miehlke and the widow Stange stuffed themselves full of burnt goose, preserved giblets, pickled pork, and squash in vinegar in the midst of the third war year. Brauxel is especially sorry to miss the unleashed and newly nimble Grandmother Matern's great scene; it is the widow Amsel, and she alone, whom he is permitted at this point to excerpt from the village idyl, for she is the mother of our plumpish Eduard Amsel, who in the course of the first to fourth morning shifts fished beanpoles, roofing laths, and heavy waterlogged rags from the rising Vistula and is now, like Walter Matern, about to be baptized.
He sold kerosene, sailcloth, canisters for fresh water, rope, nets, fish traps, eel baskets, fishing tackle of all kinds, tar, paint, sandpaper, yarn, oilcloth, pitch, and tallow, but also carried tools, from axes to pocketknives, and had small carpenter's benches, grindstones, inner tubes for bicycles, carbide lamps, pulleys, winches, and vises in stock.
Ship's biscuit was piled up beside cork jackets; a life preserver all ready to have a boat's name written on it embraced a large jar full of cough drops; a schnapps known as "Brotchen" was poured from a stout green bottle encased in basketry; he sold yard goods and remnants, but also new and used clothing, flatirons, secondhand sewing machines, and mothballs.
And in spite of the mothballs, in spite of pitch and kerosene, shellac and carbide, Albrecht Amsel's store, a spacious wooden structure resting on a concrete foundation and painted dark green every seven years, smelled first and foremost of cologne and next, before the question of mothballs could even come up, of smoked fish; for side by side with all this retail trade, Albrecht Amsel was known as a wholesale purchaser of fresh-water fish as well as deep-sea fish: chests of the lightest pinewood, golden yellow and packed full of smoked flounder, smoked eel, sprats both loose and bundled, lampreys, codfish roe, and strongly or subtly smoked Vistula salmon, with the inscription: A.
Amsel -- Fresh Fish -- Smoked Fish -Schiewenhorst -- Great Island -- burned into their front panels, were broken open with medium-sized chisels in the Danzig Market, a brick edifice situated be tween Lawendelgasse and Junkergasse, between the Dominican church and the Altstdtischer Graben.
The top came open with a crisp crackling; nails were drawn squeaking from the sides. And from Neo-Gothic ogival windows market light fell on freshly smoked fish. In addition, this farsighted merchant, deeply concerned with the future of the fishsmoking industry on the Vistula delta and the harbor-mouth bar, employed a stone mason specializing in chimney construction, who was kept busy from Plehnendorf to Einlage, that is, in all the villages bordering the Dead Vistula, which villages with their smoke house chimneys had the appearance of fantastic ruins: here he would fix a chimney that was drawing badly, elsewhere he would have to build one of those enormous smokehouse chimneys that towered over lilac bushes and squat fishermen's huts; all this in the name of Albrecht Amsel, who not without reason was said to be wealthy.
The rich Amsel, people said -- or: "Amsel the Jew. Though he was also no Mennonite, he called himself a good Protestant, possessed a permanent pew, which he occupied every Sunday, in the Fishermen's Church in Bohnsack, and married Lottchen Tiede, a reddish-blonde peasant girl inclined to stoutness from Gross-Znder; which should be taken to mean: how could Albrecht Amsel be a Jew, when Tiede, the wealthy peasant, who never went from Gross-Znder to Ksemark otherwise than in a coach-andfour and patent-leather shoes, who was a frequent caller at the District President's, who had put his sons in the Cavalry, or to be more precise, in the rather expensive Langfuhr Hussars, gave him his daughter Lottchen for his wife.
Later a good many people are said to have said that old man Tiede had given the Jew Amsel his Lottchen only because he, like many peasants, merchants, fishermen, millers -- including Miller Matern from Nickelswalde -- was deep in debt, dangerously so for the survival of his coach-and-four, to Albrecht Amsel. In the intention of proving something it was also said that speaking before the Provincial Market Regulation Commission, Albrecht Amsel had expressed strong opposition to the undue encouragement of hog raising. For the present Brauksel, who is a know-it-all, prefers to have done with conjectures: for regardless of whether it was love or debentures that brought Lottchen Tiede into his house, and regardless of whether he sat in the Fishermen's Church in Bohnsack on Sundays as a baptized Jew or a baptized Christian, Albrecht Amsel, the dynamic merchant of the Lower Vistula, who, it might be added, was also the broadshouldered cofounder of the Bohnsack Athletic Club reg.
The Fishes of March drew Eduard Amsel, restless and gifted, from the maternal cavern. In May, when the goose burned and Grandmother Matern rose again, the miller's son was baptized. The proceedings were Catholic. As early as the end of April the son of the late merchant Albrecht Amsel was already sprinkled in good Protestant style in the Fishermen's Church in Bohnsack, half, as was their customary, with Vistula water and half with water taken from the Baltic.
Whatever the other chroniclers, who have been vying with Brauksel for nine morning shifts, may record that is at variance with Brauksel's opinion, they will have to take my word for it in matters concerning the baptizand from Schiewenhorst: among all the characters intended to breathe life into this anniversary volume -- Brauchsel's mine has been producing neither coal, nor iron ores, nor potash for almost ten years -- Eduard Amsel, or Eddi Amsel, Haseloff, Goldmouth, and so on, is the most restless hero, except for Brauxel.
From the very start it was his vocation to invent scarecrows. Yet he had nothing against birds; on the other hand, birds, regardless of plumage and characteristics of flight, had plenty against him and his scarecrow-inventing mind. Immediately after the christening ceremony -- the bells hadn't even stopped ringing -- they knew him for what he was. Eduard Amsel, however, lay plump and rosy on a tight baptismal cushion, and if birds meant anything to him he didn't show it. His godmother was named Gertrud Karweise, later she took to knitting him woolen socks, year in year out, punctually for Christmas.
In her robust arms the newly baptized child was presented to the large christening party, which had been invited to an interminable christening dinner. The widow Amsel, ne Tiede, who had stayed home, was supervising the setting of the table, issuing last-minute instructions in the kitchen, and tasting sauces. But all the Tiedes from Gross-Znder, except for the four sons who were living dangerously in the Cavalry -- the second youngest was later killed -- trudged along in their Sunday best behind the baptismal cushion.
Tiede's daughters-in-law, who tripped along city fashion in pink, pea-green, and violetblue, strode, brushed gleaming black, the aged Pastor Blech -- a descendant of the famous Deacon A. Blech, who, while Pastor of St. Mary's, had written a chronicle of the City of Danzig from to , the years of the French occupation. Friedrich Bollhagen, owner of a large smoking establishment, walked behind the retired Captain Bronsard, who had found wartime occupation as a volunteer sluice operator in Plehnendorf.
August Sponagel, inn-keeper at Wesslinken, walked beside Frau Major von Ankum, who towered over him by a head. In view of the fact that Dirk Heinrich von Ankum, landowner in Klein-Znder, had gone out of existence early in , Sponagel held the Frau Major's rigidly-rectangularly offered arm. The rear guard, behind Herr and Frau Busenitz, who had a coal business in Bohnsack, consisted of Erich Lau, the disabled Schiewenhorst village mayor, and his superlatively pregnant Margarete who, as daughter of the Nickelswalde village mayor Momber, had not married below her station.
Being on duty, Dike Inspector Haberland had been obliged to take his leave outside the church door. Quite likely the procession also included a bevy of children, all too blond and all too dressed up. Over sandy paths which only sparsely covered the straggling roots of the scrub pines, they made their way along the right bank of the river to the waiting landaus, to old man Tiede's four-in-hand, which he had managed to hold on to in spite of the war and the shortage of horses.
Shoes full of sand. Captain Bronsard laughed loud and breathless, then coughed at length. Conversation waited until after dinner. The woods along the shore had a Prussian smell. Almost motionless the river, a dead arm of the Vistula, which acquired a certain amount of current only farther down when the Mottlau flowed into it. The sun shone cautiously on holiday finery. Tiede's daughters-in-law shivered pink peagreen violet-blue and would have been glad to have the widows' shawls. Quite likely so much widow's black, the gigantic Frau Major, and the disabled veteran's monumental limp contributed to the coming of an event which had been in the making from the start: scarcely had the company left the Bohnsack Fishermen's Church when the ordinarily undisplaceable gulls clouded up from the square.
Not pigeons, for fishermen's churches harbor gulls and not pigeons. Now in a steep slant bitterns, sea swallows, and teals rise from the rushes and duckweed. Up go the crested terns. Crows rise from the scrub pines. Starlings and black birds abandon the cemetery and the gardens of whitewashed fishermen's houses. From lilac and hawthorn come wagtails and titmice, robins, finches, and thrushes, every bird in the song; clouds of sparrows from eaves and telegraph wires; swallows from barns and crannies in masonry; what ever called itself bird shot up, exploded, flashed like an arrow as soon as the baptismal cushion hove into sight, and was carried across the river by the sea wind, to form a black-torn cloud, in which birds that normally avoid one another mingled promiscuously, all spurred by the same dread: gulls and crows; a pair of hawks amid dappled songbirds; magpies with magpies I And five hundred birds, not counting sparrows, fled in mass between the sun and the christening party.
And five hundred birds cast their ominous shadow upon christening party, baptismal cushion, and baptized child. And five hundred birds -- who wants to count sparrows? August Sponagel stumbles over pine roots. Between Bronsard. Did the baptizand cry? Not a whimper, but he didn't sleep either. Did the cloud of five hundred birds and uncounted sparrows disperse immediately after the hasty and not at all festive departure of the carriages? For a long while the cloud over the lazy river found no rest: for a time it hovered over Bohnsack, for a time it hung long and narrow over the woods and dunes, then broad and fluid over the opposite shore, dropping an old crow into a marshy meadow, where it stood out gray and stiff.
Only when landaus and four-in-hand drove into Schiewenhorst did the cloud disperse into its various species, which found their way back to the square outside the church, to cemetery, gardens, barns, rushes, lilac bushes, and pines; but until evening, when the christening party, having eaten and drunk its fill, sat weighing down the long table with elbows, anguish darkened numerous bird hearts of varying sizes; for as Eduard lay on his baptismal cushion, his scarecrow-inventing spirit had made itself known to all the birds.
From that moment on they knew all about him. The people of Schiewenhorst, Einlage, and Neufahr would hardly have called him a rich Jew for no reason at all. And what about the name? Isn't it typical? You say he's of Dutch descent, because in the early Middle Ages Dutch settlers drained the Vistula delta, having brought with them linguistic peculiarities, windmills, and their names?
Now that Brauksel has insisted in the course of past morning shifts that A. Amsel is not a Jew and declared in so many words: "Of course Amsel was not a Jew," he can now, with equal justification -- for all origins are what we choose to make of them -- try to convince you that of course Albrecht Amsel was a Jew. He came of a family of tailors long resident in Preussisch-Stargard and had been obliged -- because his father's house was full of children -- to leave Preussisch-Stargard at the age of sixteen for Schneidemhl, Frankfurt on the Oder, and Berlin. Fourteen years later he had come -metamorphosed, Protestant, and wealthy -- to the Vistula estuary by way of Schneidemhl, Neustadt, and Dirschau.
The cut which had made Schiewenhorst a village on the river was not yet a year old when Albrecht Amsel purchased his property on favorable terms. And so he went into business. What else should he have gone into? And so he sang in the church choir. Why shouldn't he, a baritone, have sung in the church choir? And so he helped to found an athletic club, and among all the inhabitants of the village it.
The tailor's son had devoted fourteen years to forgetting his origins and only as a sideline, though with equal success, to amassing a good-Protestant fortune. And then in a precocious young man by the name of Otto Weininger wrote a book. This extraordinary book was named Sex and Character; published in Vienna and Leipzig, it labored for six hundred pages to demonstrate that women have no soul. Because the topic proved timely in those years of feminist agitation, and particularly because the thirteenth chapter, entitled "The Jewish Character," showed that the Jews, being a feminine race, also have no soul, the extraordinary book ran into an incredible number of editions and found its way into households where otherwise only the Bible was read.
And so Weininger's brain child was also taken into the house of Albrecht Amsel. Perhaps the merchant would not have opened the thick book if he had known that a certain Herr Pfennig was engaged in denouncing Otto Weininger as a plagiarist. In there appeared a vicious pamphlet attacking the late Weininger -- the young man had meanwhile taken his own life -- in the crudest terms.
Much as he deplored the tone of the vicious pamphlet, even S. Freud, who had called the deceased Weininger an extremely gifted young man, could not overlook the well-documented fact that Weininger's central idea -- bisexuality -- was not original with him, but had first occurred to a certain Herr Fliess. And so Albrecht Amsel opened the book all unsuspecting and read in Weininger who in a footnote had introduced himself as a Jew: The Jew has no soul. The Jew does not sing. The Jew does not engage in sports.
The Jew must surmount the Jewishness within him. And Albrecht Amsel surmounted by singing in the church choir, by not only founding the Bohnsack Athletic Club reg. Like the villagers of the Island, Brauksel, who is recording these matters to the best of his ability, would know nothing of the town of Preussisch-Stargard and Eduard Amsel's tailor grandfather, if Lottchen Amsel, ne Tiede, had kept silence. Many years after the fatal day in Verdun she opened her mouth. Young Amsel, of whom we shall be speaking, though with interruptions, from now on, had hastened from the city to his mother's deathbed and she, who was succumbing to diabetes, had whispered feverishly in his ear: "Ah, son.
Forgive your poor mother. Amsel, you never knew him but he was your very own father, was one of the circumcised as they say. I only hope they don't catch you now the laws are so strict. In his. He saved the book down through hard times, and it is thanks to him that the book is now lying on Brauxel's desk, where it can be consulted today and at all times: Weininger has grafted quite a few ideas onto the present writer. The scarecrow is created in man's image. As he writes or manages the mine, it grows. As he dines, walks, slumbers, breathes, or holds his breath, as the morning shift is lowered, the night shift raised, and sparrows inaugurate the day, it grows.
In fact, while with cold fingers the barber shortens Brauksel's hair at his request because the year is drawing to a close, it grows back under his scissors. One day Brauksel, like Weininger, will be dead, but his hair, toenails, and fingernails will survive him for a time -- just as this handbook on the construction of effective scarecrows will be read long after the writer has gone out of existence.
Dog Years by Gunter Grass | Nature
Yesterday mention was made of strict laws. But at the present point in our story, which is just beginning, the laws are still mild, they do not punish Amsel's origin in any way; Lottchen Amsel, ne Tiede, knows nothing about the horrors of diabetes; "naturally" Albrecht Amsel was not a Jew; Eduard Amsel is also a good Protestant and has his mother's quickly growing reddish-blond hair; plump, already in possession of all his freckles, he spends his time amid drying fishnets and his favorite way of viewing the world is: filtered through fishnets; small wonder that the world soon takes on for him a net-like pattern, obstructed by beanpoles.
Here it is contended that at first little Eduard Amsel -- he was five and a half when he built his first scarecrow deserving of the name -- had no intention of building anything of the sort. But people from the village and salesmen on their way around the Island with fire insurance and seed samples, peasants on their way home from the notary's, in short, all those who watched him as he set up his fluttering figures on the dike near the Schiewenhorst dock, thought along those lines.
And Kriwe said to Herbert Kienast: "Look what Amsel's kid has been making: honest-to-goodness scarecrows. He built one every day, and they were never alike. What the day before it had taken him three hours to make from striped pants, a jacketlike rag with bold checks, a brimless hat, and, with the help of an incomplete and ramshackle ladder, an armful of freshly cut willow switches, he tore down the following morning, to construct from the same materials an oddity of a very different race and faith, but which like its predecessor commanded birds to keep their distance.
Though all these transitory edifices revealed industry and imagination on the part of the architect, it was Eduard Amsel's keen sense of reality in all its innumerable forms, the curious eye surmounting his plump cheek, which provided his products with closely observed detail, which made them functional and crow-repellent. They differed not only. They seemed to be alive, and if you looked at them long enough, even in process of construction or when they were being torn down and nothing remained but the torso, they were alive in every way: they sprinted along the dike, running figures beckoned, threatened, attacked, thrashed, waved from shore to shore, let themselves be carried by the wind, engaged in conversation with the sun, blessed the river and its fish, counted the poplars, overtook the clouds, broke off the tips of steeples, tried to ascend to heaven, to board or pursue the ferry, to take flight, they were never anonymous, but signified Johann Lickfett the fisherman, Pastor Blech, time and time again Kriwe the ferryman, who stood with his mouth open and his head to one side, Captain Bronsard, Inspector Haberland, or whomever else those lowlands had to offer.
Thus, although the rawboned Frau Major von Ankum had her small homestead in Klein-Znder and seldom posed at the ferry landing, she made herself at home on the Schiewenhorst dike in the form of a giantess terrifying to birds and children alike, and remained there for three days. A little later, when school began for Eduard Amsel, it was Herr Olschewski, the young schoolmaster in Nickelswalde -- for Schiewenhorst did not maintain a school -who was obliged to stand still when his freckliest pupil planted him, insubstantial as a scarecrow, on the great dune to the right of the river mouth.
Amid the wind-bowed pines on the crest of the dune Amsel planted the schoolmaster's double and before his canvasshod feet laid out the griddle-flat Island from the Vistula to the Nogat, the plain as far as the towers of Danzig, the hills and woods beyond the city, the river from mouth to horizon, and the open sea reaching out to ward an intimation of Hela Peninsula, including the ships anchored in the roadstead.
It is ending in an odd kind of way, because what with the Berlin crisis, New Year's Eve is to be celebrated not with noisy fireworks but only with the luminous kind. And still another reason for not celebrating New Year's Eve with the usual noise makers here in Lower Saxony is that Hinrich Kopf, a faithful likeness of a chief of state, has just been carried to his grave.
As a precaution Brauxel, after consulting the shop committee, has put up a notice in the surface installations, in the administration building, in the gangways, and on the fill level, so worded: The workers and staff of Brauxel and Co. Seller Inventory More information about this seller Contact this seller 1.
First Edition; First Printing. Remainder mark to bottom page edges. Text is clean and unmarked. More information about this seller Contact this seller 2. Published by Pantheon, New York About this Item: Pantheon, New York, Red buckram with gilt lettering on the spine.
Square and firmly bound, clean internally. The first edition to compile Grass' trilogy into one volume. More information about this seller Contact this seller 3. Published by U. About this Item: U. Dust Jacket Condition: Near Fine. Hardback in fine condition with near fine dust jacket.
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More information about this seller Contact this seller 4. Published by Pantheon, N Y About this Item: Pantheon, N Y, Condition: Very Good. Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good. Not Ex-Library Copy. Hardcover Edition With Dustjacket. Good Copy.