ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Gunter Grass in Mumbai

Gunter Grass, the celebrated German writer and winner of the Nobel Prize in literature visited India on three occasions. Grass' later portrayal of his Indian experiences, in his subsequent works like The Flounder and Headbirths or the Germans Are Dying Out, revealed that for him India's beauty was not a mere picture postcard prettiness. For Grass, it was more important to sensitively encapsulate through his works, the problem of the beauty of poverty and the charm of the poor in India that were of special significance to him.

Gunter Grass, the German writer and Nobel Prize Winner of 1999, had a special interest in India which is unmatched by any other German writer of note. The German Festival in India organised in the month of December 2000, for the first time brought several distinguished German writers to India. They travelled the country for several weeks individually, giving readings of their works at various centres of the Max Mueller Bhavan (MMB) and met fellow-writers. On January 11 and 12 they came together in Mumbai for a symposium at the MMB to speak about their experiences under the headline ‘Crossing Boundaries’. This may be the appropriate occasion to remember Gunter Grass’ visits to Mumbai. His prolonged stay in Calcutta has been the subject of much debate. But during his three visits to India, he also was in Mumbai on two occasions.

In 1975, Grass came to India on the invitation of the Indian government. He visited Delhi, Calcutta and Kerala. In Delhi, he delivered a hard-hitting lecture entitled ‘According to Rough Estimates’ at the Indian International Centre on poverty alleviation. In Calcutta, Grass, staying at Raj Bhavan, the governor’s residence, went around the sites the government wanted him to see. But he also managed to encounter the poor in the slums. After returning to Germany, he incorporated his experiences in Delhi and particularly of Calcutta in the India chapter ‘Vasco returns’ of his novel The Flounder (German original 1977).

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