by Gunter Grass | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 0156029707 Global Overview for this book
Registered by crazy-book-lady of Toronto, Ontario Canada on 6/13/2004
Buy from one of these Booksellers: | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Amazon IT |
13 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by crazy-book-lady from Toronto, Ontario Canada on Sunday, June 13, 2004
This will be heading off to goatgrrl in beautiful British Columbia. She has generously sent me two packages of books in the past couple of weeks, so I hope she enjoys the surprize package that will be coming her way soon!

Journal Entry 2 by goatgrrl from New Westminster, British Columbia Canada on Thursday, June 24, 2004
I received this book in the mail today from crazy-book-lady in Toronto. It was a complete surprise, truly a RABCK, and I'm so touched by your generosity. Thank you so much for your kindness -- I hope it comes back to you many times over!

Journal Entry 3 by goatgrrl from New Westminster, British Columbia Canada on Sunday, July 18, 2004
On January 30, 1945, during the last months of WWII, Soviet submarine S-13 attacked the Wilhelm Gustloff (left), a German cruise ship turned refugee carrier which had that morning left Gotenhafen (now Gdynia) loaded with 6,000 - 10,000 passengers fleeing the Soviet occupation of East Prussia. Between 5,000 and 9,000 of those aboard -- the majority of them children -- were trampled, drowned or froze to death in the Baltic Sea. 1,230 survivors (the only number which has been determined with any exactitude) were ferried to safety by German torpedo boats and other small vessels, including the Löwe, Gustloff's escort ship.

Crabwalk tells the story of two fictional survivors of the Gustloff -- eighteen year old Tulla Pokriefke and her baby, Paul, born on the torpedo boat Löwe on the day the Gustloff sank. Narrated by Paul -- now a left-wing journalist and the novel's protagonist -- Crabwalk describes the directions the lives of the Pokriefke family take in the decades following the disaster. Along with Tulla and Paul, the other main characters in the book are Paul's son Konny -- a twenty-something student who runs a neo-Nazi website -- and Günter Grass himself, who makes a series of funny "cameo" appearances as the éminence grise to whom Paul is accountable in the narrating of his tale.

Grass' appearances as a character in the novel grant him an opportunity not usually seized by novelists -- the chance to editorialize on events as they unfold. Writing about the wartime suffering of the German people, as well as about the rise in neo-Nazi activity in the present day, Grass-the-character fumes:

Never ... should his generation have kept silent about such misery, merely because its own sense of guilt was so overwhelming, merely because for years the need to accept responsibility and show remorse took precedence, with the result that they abandoned the topic to the right wing. This failure was staggering.

Crabwalk seems to be Grass’ attempt to redress this failure.

Günter Grass won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1999. His other novels include The Tin Drum, Cat and Mouse and Dog Years (which together form his Danzig Trilogy, in which the character of Tulla first makes an appearance), and The Flounder and The Rat, said to reflect Grass's commitment to the peace and environmental movements.

Journal Entry 4 by goatgrrl from New Westminster, British Columbia Canada on Tuesday, July 20, 2004

1. This is an international bookray -- if you join, please be willing to ship the book anywhere.
2. Please journal the book when you receive it, and again when you mail it out -- that way, everyone will know its approximate location.
3. If you don't think you'll be able to read this book within a reasonable time of receipt, please let me know before it's sent to you by the previous reader, and I'll be happy to move your name down the list.
4. Whether you have read the book or not, please do not keep it longer than eight weeks.

1. novasoy - Louisville, Kentucky, USA - rec'd July 24, 04; mailed August 10, 04.
2. lady-anglophile - Kuwait - rec'd August 22, 04; mailed September 8, 04.
3. meganh - Gisborne, Victoria, Australia - rec'd September 20, 04; mailed October 6, 04.
4. dododumpling - St. Neots, Cambridgeshire, UK - rec'd October 15, 04; mailed October 26, 04.
5. platypussj - Colchester, England, UK - rec'd October 28, 04; mailed November 6, 04.
6. Dworin - Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia - rec'd December 31, 04; mailed January 12, 05.
7. MollyGrue - Tacoma, Washington, USA - rec'd January 21, 05; mailed March 26, 05.
nyla7 - Wharton, New Jersey, USA - rec'd April 2, 05; mailed May 12, 05.
9. nekki2976 - Perry, New York, USA - rec'd May 13, 05; mailed September 20, 05.
10. BookGroupMan - Woodbridge, England, UK - rec'd September 24, 05.
11. Rrrcaron - Lancaster, New Hampshire, USA - rec'd October 18, 05.

Journal Entry 5 by goatgrrl from New Westminster, British Columbia Canada on Wednesday, July 21, 2004
I'll be mailing Crabwalk to novasoy in Louisville, Kentucky this afternoon. Best wishes from New Westminster, British Columbia (at left: the Fraser River as seen from the top of my street.)

Journal Entry 6 by novasoy from Louisville, Kentucky USA on Saturday, July 24, 2004
This arrived in the mail this morning with some lovely Canadian things inside... a magnet and a nice bookmark. I want to emigrate to Canada more than ever now.

Journal Entry 7 by novasoy at another bookcrosser in another bookcrosser, Postal Release Kuwait on Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Released on Tuesday, August 10, 2004 at another bookcrosser in another bookcrosser, Postal Release Kuwait.

Sent Air Mail.

Journal Entry 8 by norafrvr from Kuwait, Kuwait Kuwait on Sunday, August 22, 2004
Received in the mail today. I'll read the book right away. Thanks goatgrrl for including me in this bookring :)

Journal Entry 9 by norafrvr from Kuwait, Kuwait Kuwait on Thursday, September 02, 2004
First of all, I would like to apologize for keeping the book with me for two weeks.

The book was not so interesting. It is slow-paced and a bit boring, at least to me, perhaps some people find it interesting!

The reader can only hear one voice through the whole novel, that is, the voice of the narrator. But even this narrator was not introduced from the beginning, to me it was a bit annoying, I wanted to know whose the voice belong to so that I can get into the story.

The first part of the book, the reader can only see the still-not-introduced-narrator looking at a special website dedicated to the sinking of a German cruise ship, the Wilhelm Gustloff. The narrator, who is later introduced as Paul, let the reader know what information presented on the website. And sometimes he argues with himself with the webmaster on some points in the history of the Gustloff.

Although the book is boring, to me, yet I kept reading it solely because I was so much interested in the title of the book, CRABWALK! Why does the author give his book such title? So, I set myself to a challenge to discover why?

I asked myself through my reading that the book is all about the sinking of the Gustloff. So, what the "crabwalk" got to do with it!!!!!!!!!!!!

But later on I came to the realization that Paul is not telling us about the history of the sinking of this German ship but instead he is giving us information on what he knows about the the Gustloff and its history. Information he obtained from the website, from his mother and from other resources!

So, the book is not about the story of the sinking of the Gustloff, however, it is about WRITING about the sinking of this ship!.. just then the whole book made sense to me.

Paul, the author voice in the novel is trying to collect information about the Gustluff that is why we see him in the first part of the book looking at the Gustloff website. Paul is confused on how to approach his subject matter:
“ But I’m still not sure how to go about this: should I do as I was taught and unpack one life at a time, in order, or do I have to sneak up on time in a crabwalk, seeming to go backward but actually scuttling sideways, and thereby working my way forward fairly rapidly?”

that’s why the reader can really notice that there is no order in telling about the Gustluff. Sometimes he gives details about the ship and its era in a random chronological order. He just goes forward and backwards and plays with the order of the history.

Towards the end, the book gets to a different and unexpected twist,, then the focus of the book shifts from the attempt to write about the Gustloff into some different issue.. I don’t want to include any spoilers here!!

For me the book deals with 3 issues:
1-Writing the story of the sinking of the Gustloff: which I said earlier, the narrator is only collecting information to help him in writing his story.

2-History: The book tends to depict the history of the sinking of the Gustloff and its political and social circumstances. The book really proves that History repeats itself: first time, it’s tragedy. And second time, it’s frace! I can’t say anymore on that or I will spoil the book for others.

3-Relationships between the characters in this book: (I’m only interested in these two set of relationships)
Mother(Tulla)Vs her son (Paul):
I feel that there is a cold relationship between Tulla and her son Paul. Tulla always insists on her son to write about the story of the sinking of the German ship but he shows no interest in that subject. Therefore, Tulla turns to her grandson ,Konny, to achieve what she wants. Tulla’s insistence to retell the story of the Gustloff is responsible to much of what happened to her grandson.

Father(Paul) vs son(Konny):
Since Paul is a fatherless father, therefore he can’t perform his role as a father to his son Konny. They don’t talk to each other much often although both of them are interested in the same subject matter, the sinking of the Gustloff(which is a bit ironic!!!!). Paul’s lack of responsibility towards his son leads his son to be in undesirable situation.

Thank you goatgrrl for including me in your ring.
And I wish a happy reading to my fellow bookcrosser.

Journal Entry 10 by norafrvr from Kuwait, Kuwait Kuwait on Wednesday, September 08, 2004
Mailed to meganh in Australia.. ENJOY :)

Journal Entry 11 by wingmeganhwing from Preston, Victoria Australia on Monday, September 20, 2004
Received yesterday 20th September all the way from Kuwait. I look forward to reading this after the two rings ahead of it.

Journal Entry 12 by wingmeganhwing from Preston, Victoria Australia on Wednesday, October 06, 2004
I finished this book yesterday and will post it off to dododumpling (what a great name)today.
Gunter Grass is a Nobel laureate and I found this novel interesting, but a little slow-moving - perhaps something is lost in the translation.
The infant survivor of the sunken Wilhelm Gustloff becomes the reluctant storyteller, only to find his son Konny has set up a website on the namesake of the sunken ship. Konny is obsessed with telling the world about his hero and re-ignites passions on anti-semitism with a fellow chatroomer which leads to disastrous consequences.
More about the family dynamics than the tragedy itself.

Journal Entry 13 by dododumpling from St. Neots, Cambridgeshire United Kingdom on Monday, October 18, 2004
This was waiting for me on Friday when I got home from work. What a lovely way to end the working week - coming home to a book and having a weekend to read it! :)

Journal Entry 14 by dododumpling from St. Neots, Cambridgeshire United Kingdom on Monday, October 25, 2004
I read this book in two sittings. It totally grabbed me and I found myself thinking about it when I wasn't reading it - mulling over events, working out what impact it was having on me.

I have to confess, though, that the book itself wasn't what really grabbed me; it was the story it told (if that makes sense). I studied German and Russian at university and had never come across events such as the sinking of the Gustloff. The quotation that goatgrrl picked out goes some way towards explaining this: Never ... should his generation have kept silent about such misery, merely because its own sense of guilt was so overwhelming, merely because for years the need to accept responsibility and show remorse took precedence. Looking at history from Tulla's point of view, I was also fascinated by the dynamics of the relationship between the East (communist) German survivors and the Soviet perpetrators of this disaster. That for me was so much more interesting than the Tulla-Paul-Konny story.

This page has further links and a short bibliography.

Waiting for platypussj's address.

Journal Entry 15 by dododumpling from St. Neots, Cambridgeshire United Kingdom on Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Popped in the post to platypussj today.

Journal Entry 16 by platypussj from Colchester, Essex United Kingdom on Friday, October 29, 2004
Received yesterday evening with a really cool postcard. Also received "Bridges of Madison County" at the same time - as that one is less than 200 pages (and very small) I'll read that first. Looks like Crabwalk's been travelling at a good pace but still has a long way to go so I'll definately start it this weekend.

Journal Entry 17 by platypussj from Colchester, Essex United Kingdom on Saturday, November 06, 2004
To be honest this book was not a pleasure to read. I found the narrator (I have no doubt intentionally) detached and cold in his accounts. The family dynamics distinctly reflect the legacy of a torn country, a tragic history, an uncertain future. He does point out very clearly the dangers of both rearing up historical events in a biased way and of course, of letting things lie too long unspoken.

The sense of confusion and uncertainty was very well portrayed as was the guilt and atonement for simply being a citizen of a particular country - not just at that time, but even now - also the anger and frustration that creates in the generations following - the result of seeing their parents apologise for the actions of their forefathers.

I'm glad I read it - it makes me realize that the German people suffered far more than most people would wish to acknowledge. And that the past can rear it's head in the most unexpected ways and with devastating consequences.

Thank You goatgrrl for sharing. Ready to post to Dworin.

Journal Entry 18 by Dworin from Seremban, Elective Monarchy of Negeri Sembilan (Seremban) Malaysia on Monday, January 03, 2005
The book arrived last week, but I forgot to bring the number, so I'm registering it only now. I'm only at the beginning, but it seems the book is as much a relay of the authors research into history as it is about the history itself. I like it so far, and will comment more once I've finished it. Thanks Platypussj for sending the book (with card), crazy-book-lady for making it available and goatgrrl for organizing the ring.

Journal Entry 19 by Dworin from Seremban, Elective Monarchy of Negeri Sembilan (Seremban) Malaysia on Wednesday, January 05, 2005
Finished reading the book yesterday, and I enjoyed it. I didn't think the pace was slow at all.

Tulla, Paul, Konrad are apparently pretty much symbols of their respective generations. First, Tulla never manages to look much past the horror (and pleasure) of her own experiences. This does not allow her an historical overview and leads to her very erratic judgements (a picture of Stalin on a catholic shrine, in the 21st century?). In this sense, the war has been too much for her to handle.

The second generation has tried to ignore the war as best as possible. Sure, Paul tried to write politically correct, but he never felt really involved. As a reporter of the past he is a failure, a fact hammered home by mother and ex. This is also reflected in the Stremplin couple who declare they 'see themselves as free of anything that could amount to vengeance' (or something like that, page 212 if I remember correctly). This rather absurd attitude is a clear indication of refusing to deal with the issue. This passivity (shown again by the way mother has to urge Grass to urge Paul to write) makes them guilty of the confusion of the next generation, as per the report of the psychologists at the trial.

The third generation, Konrad, now picks up the theme and voices out what Paul has managed to ignore all his life: In war horrible things happen and noone is free from guilt. But assigning guilt to the Russians leads him to glorify, under the pretext of objectivity, some nazis. Only at the very end of the novella he breaks with this obsession but by then it is too late, both for his 'friend' as well as in a more general sense: he has unwittingly carried over the torch to someone else.

Interspersed with this generation tale is the horrible sinking of the ship the Wilhelm Gustloff, one of the horrors faced by people facing the displacement form nowadays Poland to Germany.

The so-called guide at the end states that this is mainly an historical novel, which I think is not very accrate. Not for nothing does Grass introduce the Internet as a very important factor very early on: the book is written for this age. For this reason the story crabwalks back and forth in time. It is not only the tale of the Gustloff but especially the role of that history in peoples life that is the theme of the novella.

On the title: Krebs in German is crab (as in the title) but also cancer. There might be an allusion to unmourned horror breeding a festering hate that is invisible at first, much like a cancer growth.

All in all I found it a very good read.

Sent it out today (12 Jan) to MollyGrue

Journal Entry 20 by MollyGrue from Tacoma, Washington USA on Friday, January 21, 2005
I have a few rings ahead of this one, but hopefully I should get to this soon. Thanks!

Journal Entry 21 by MollyGrue from Tacoma, Washington USA on Monday, March 14, 2005
Just not getting into this one, so I think I'll send it along. Thanks for letting me try, though.

Journal Entry 22 by MollyGrue at in the mail in Bookring, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases on Saturday, March 26, 2005

Released 14 yrs ago (3/26/2005 UTC) at in the mail in Bookring, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases



Sent to Nyla7. Happy reading!

DC# 03022940000169565325

Journal Entry 23 by nyla7 from Wharton, New Jersey USA on Saturday, April 02, 2005
Just received as a bookring. I am looking forward to reading it but am in the middle of a long dense book right now. If it becomes apparent that it's taking too long to finish it, I will pass Crabwalk on to the next person.

Journal Entry 24 by nyla7 from Wharton, New Jersey USA on Thursday, May 12, 2005
I couldn't get into this book. I found the narrative confusing, and I also was just not in the right frame of mind for this book at this time. I've passed it on to the next person.

Journal Entry 25 by nekki2976 from Mumford, New York USA on Thursday, May 19, 2005
Sorry, I thought I'd journalled this (looking at the cover), but a PM from the previous person shows I hadn't. I received this about a week ago. I'll read it within the next couple of days and send it on.

Journal Entry 26 by goatgrrl from New Westminster, British Columbia Canada on Sunday, July 17, 2005
nekki2976 PMd on July 12th indicating she plans to mail Crabwalk to the next reader within the next couple of days.

Journal Entry 27 by goatgrrl from New Westminster, British Columbia Canada on Sunday, September 11, 2005
PMd nekki2976 seeking an update on the status of this ring. Thanks, nekki, for any info you can provide.

Journal Entry 28 by nekki2976 from Mumford, New York USA on Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Sorry to all in this ring. I lost the original copy of the book and have now gotten a new copy. It is re-numbered (keeping this BCID, I'll send the original back to goatgrrl when I find it) and packaged. It is headed off to BookGroupMan by Global Priority mail this afternoon. He should have it within a week.

Journal Entry 29 by goatgrrl from New Westminster, British Columbia Canada on Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Yay nekki - thank you so much!! Best wishes to you and yours.

Journal Entry 30 by nekki2976 from Mumford, New York USA on Thursday, September 22, 2005
So, apparently I'm really cosmically meant to find out about the Gustloff. After packaging up the new copy, I found the original copy. That is the one that was sent Tuesday via Global Priority. He should have it with 5 to 9 days from then.

Anyways... for those still interested and who have access to it, yesterday (Wednesday, 21 Aug. 2005) on Discovery Times, "Unsolved History" was all about the Wilhelm Gustloff. The show/researchers interviewed some of the 996 documented survivors. They also did much research on their own, and with computer-aided technology, they recreated the Gustloff's size and how it sank, plus estimated how many people were actually on it. They estimate that nearly 10,000 people were on board the ship that was built for 1,800 -- with the computer-worked numbers and the computer-based results being so near recorded results, they are 99% certain of their information. It was a really neat show to go with the book.

Journal Entry 31 by BookGroupMan from Criccieth, Wales United Kingdom on Saturday, September 24, 2005
Thanx 'Nekki', typical that you found the original just when you'd given up :( I did think this copy looked in good condition after doing about a billion miles already!

I will read & pass on soonest. Thanks to all in the chain so far...

Journal Entry 32 by BookGroupMan from Criccieth, Wales United Kingdom on Monday, October 10, 2005
(9/10) Finished - review to follow and onward travel back to the US of A, addy please rrrcaron :)

Journal Entry 33 by BookGroupMan from Criccieth, Wales United Kingdom on Thursday, October 13, 2005
*includes slight spoiler*

This has a ‘typical’ Germanic feel to it, if I may be so sweeping :) Through the measured reportage of facts and gradual de-layering of the historical precedents and events, Grass gives us a thorough and stylish treatise on the German psyche (post WW2), the nature of obsession and pitfalls of absent fatherhood! Maybe not a classic, but the work of a genius who is employing his skills & displaying his art effortlessly, if not spectacularly.

GG introduces the ‘crabwalk’ symbolism early on, the sideways - and sometimes backwards - scuttling in order to move forwards, in which he means both the narrative and I think the non-linear nature of history, "should I unpack one life at a time...or do I sneak up on time in a crabwalk." The narrator is a German journalist researching the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, in 1945, formerly the pride of the German ‘Strength through Joy’ workers cruise fleet and later a troop carrier, hospital ship and refugee ship – and consequently the greatest unreported maritime disaster of all time. Paul Pokriefke, according to his Mother, was born as the ship sunk, "(his) first cry drowned out the other cry, blended from thousands of voices...a collective death cry such as had never been heard before". And so the research turns into a personal journey back in time, and offers a backdrop to different facets of the German volk’s obsession-with and failure to move on from the Third Reich and its endless ripples through history to the present day and beyond. Notably, his son Konrad is obsessed with ‘the martyr’ (Gustloff) and the need for revenge and some wider recognition & remembrance of the events, acted out through an online chat room and a virtual opponent taking the part of the Jewish assassin. And his Mother ‘Tulla’ who is an unrepentant National Socialist & Stalinist looking to recreate endlessly the fateful last voyage.

Paul sums it up nicely, "I’ve never felt comfortable with people who stare at one spot until it smolders, smokes, bursts into flame", meaning Gustloff as an NS party functionary, the U-boat commander Marinesko, and the Jew David Frankfurter, but also his son and other kitchen sink revolutionaries & suburban psychopaths.

And finally, as part of the internet sniping between Konrad and his nemesis David, 'My son added his own fuel to the fire: "He who forgets his people’s past is not worthy of it!"', and the solemn epitaph after the drama has played out, "It doesn’t end. Never will it end."

Journal Entry 34 by Rrrcaron from Lancaster, New Hampshire USA on Tuesday, October 18, 2005
I received this book in the mail yesterday. I hope to get to it soon.

Journal Entry 35 by Rrrcaron from Lancaster, New Hampshire USA on Tuesday, September 12, 2006
At first I found this book to be a little confusing, but as it progressed, I became very involved in it. I had never learned of this tragedy at sea. How it affected the characters was overwhelming. The struggle with Germany's past continued for the least expected, and the conclusion really shocked me. I'm glad I read the book. Thanks so much for sharing.

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