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When meeting Andrew O'Hagan. We started with the idea of two evenings. One where Andrew would interview and converse with Norman Mailer, we interviewed for the current hot off the press issue of the Paris Review and a subsequent evening where he would do the same with Gunter Grass. What better way I thought of ending this season than having these two extraordinary creators come together on the same evening. And Andrews agreed to do this. Both Grass and Mailer as you know have dealt in fiction and in life with Hitler and his period and tonight for the first time they will share the stage to discuss among other matters, the relationship between fact and fiction. As your program makes clear the proceedings tonight are very simple. Two interviews, each the length of a psychoanalytical session. Andrew, as any good shrink will keep time and so will I. Each session must end to make time for the next patient. So, Gunter Grass first interviewed by Andrew O'Hagan for 45 minutes, immediately followed by Norman Mailer interviewed by Andrew O'Hagan for 45 minutes. And without pause a conversation between Gunter Grass and Norman Mailer and Andrew O'Hagan which will last 30 minutes. Gunter Grass and Norman Mailer and Andrew O'Hagan have signed books which will be sold at the end of the evening including the Paris Review issue where you will find the quite brilliant interview that Andrew O'Hagan did of Norman Mailer. So, sit back or rather forward and pay attention. Ladies and Gentleman, it's my privilege and pleasure to welcome to the stage tonight Andrew O'Hagan first with Gunter Grass, then was Norman Mailer. Thank you very much. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the New York Public Library. And its a pleasure to see so many of you especially given the famous New York blackout which is the occurring as we speak and I think it's wonderful that so many of you should come out to encourage these sprightly new first time authors that we've provided for you this evening. Ofcourse, we have Norman Mailer and Gunter Grass, both born in 1920s. Grass and Mailer went on to become the grand men respectively of letters in their countries. They witnessed the 20th century at close quarters. At the center of each writer's consciousness is the role of their respective countries in the Second World War and the legacy of violence and guilt that created the Cold War. Yet as stylists these two novelists appeared to internalize the great forces of their times, the appeal of totalitarianism and the cult of celebrity, the struggle for national definition and the psychology of sex. Gunter Grass's new book is a rare disposition on memory and it sheds a complicated light into the mind of a nation as much as into the mind of its major novelists. We will, of course concentrate on the books surprises. What we might remember in all of this that the book is a work of literature. It's not response to a charge sheet nor is a transcription for evidence presented in court as the traces left by a great writer's examinations of his own conscience. For that, we should be grateful most grateful. We do not dwell on the question of whether the examinations comes too late, but only the fact that it does come as here and that it comes to us in such a powerful and unforgettable way. We might remember that Gunter Grass with his novels and his poetry restored dignitary and humanity to the German language after years of its corruption. He first gave voice to what we might term, the anti-totalitarian outlook. They are surely not possible that that great, great achievement is compromised by our guest's great confession in this book. But there are those you may think so. I will give air time to that position during this interview. Welcome Gunter Grass. In "Peeling the Onion" you speak of a cousin of your mother's who was executed after he tried to defend the Polish post office. You used this material in The Tin Drum ofcourse. Yet you have seen your new book, that his name was never mentioned a home. Why was he never mentioned? Yeah. This uncle was a cousin of my mother. She loved him very much. He was coming in our little apartment, there is two rooms, playing cards. But then before the war the political situation was growing more and more between Polish and German people in the city of Danzig and he was working at the Polish post office, Danzig belonged or it didn't belonged to the German radicals this time, up to 39, the beginning of the war. It was a free city, a result of the set of the First World War, very complicated. But he worked in this Polish post office and this post office was defended by the people who worked there for one day then there was a capitulation. And all were shot, most Germans, also my uncle. And from then on this kind of opportunistic behavior it was not good to speak about. There was no more contact with the rest of his family also with the children of this uncle I have played, I was I was 12 years old at this time. There was no connection any more. I am interested in this question of silence of not speaking at home about these important matters for your mother never spoke about what happened to her when the Russians came. At the end of the war she was raped when she This is is this another kind of silence. This is the first, I am not speaking about the the uncle and the family that was only opportunistic because it was not opportune to speak with Kashubian Polish people at this time. With my mother like most people who really have their connection with the war in what is happening during war time my mother was not able to speak about that when the Russian army conquered, this destroyed city of Danzig, something terrible happened to her. And I've tried after the war, two years after the war, when I met her again to ask her. But she didn't give answers of not only after the deaths of my mother and my sister. She was 14-years old when this all happened in Danzig. She told me that she was many times misused by Russian soldiers because she was protecting her daughter. But she wasn't able to speak about and I think many people - who are not able for long, long time to speak about special things what happened to them? Would you see this was very common in Germany at that time? I guess that's not only common in Germany. That's not only common in Germany - if really terrible things are happening. You will you will find that with the US soldiers coming back from the Iraq war they will not be able to speak for years about special things. They will not be able to speak about and we have to respect this, we have to respect this, not to force those people to speak. This question of silence though and shame it lies at the heart of the new book and the book you write and I quote "I had been incorporated into a system that had planned, organized and carried out the extermination of millions of people." Uh-huh. That was the first time you told the world that you had been a member of the Waffen-SS. Why did stay silent on this matter for so very long? No. Just that was that this was known everywhere. Germany that I was like all young boys of my generation and we did grow up in the Nazi time. When Hitler came to power I was six years old and so war and once I was 12-years-old I was a member of the Hitler Youth like everybody and I did believe up to the end of the war and I did believe I was close up in this kind of ideology and I liked very much to be a member of the Hitler Youth together with other young people which was very well organized and from the propaganda point of view it was well done, we believe up to the end. And took me also after the war, months to believe what really has happened to it and I heard all this crime we were involved without that knowledge. But this is the one side the other side is in that I wrote about about my book. I didn't ask questions your first question was - is my uncle. I didn't ask my parents why he is away. Why he is shot down? I took the same opportunistic way and also in other cases when the teacher was away up from school and came back half a year later back from the concentration camp we didn't ask, we didn't ask. This is this is the shame afterwards, after all this years that I didn't ask this question. And my book was this was a very important part of my book in the beginning and it's about this this missed questions. This was a recurring silence, people can understand I think a 17-year-old boy in those circumstances might be drawn into even the Waffen-SS but you were 17 and then you were 27 and then you were 37 and you continued not to say. I was 16 years old and I was drafted to the Waffen-SS they didn't ask me. Yes. When I was 15 I volunteered to the submarine that was crazy enough. But they didn't take any more people, young people for the submarine. That was the reason, that was drafted me to the Waffen SS. And this war for or this trading camp, and all this together was four months and in action as a soldier I was at one and a half week, but not no more not any more together was units of the Waffen-SS because everything was disturbed and destroyed, that was from day to day as the units, together and if they are not killed another unit was built this is this I described in my book. As I see, I think people can understand the reason for you being there. What is more difficult to understand is why during that career where you have been the chief moral voice in Germany you have remained silent about this experience But I heard now after all this - relocation I heard every every day in Germany in last months last months and this is repeated, this is repeated and but then came the voices that I told other journalists in the 60s about this days or weeks was a roughness as but nobody take care. There was no - no reaction. Why do you think that was? This I don't know because the - because the knowledge about that war was great as that now. Now it's a young generation of of journalists are active. They doesn't know anything about this and they like to be judges. All right. Are they entitled to be judges? What to be? Are they entitled to be judges? No, I don't think so I don't think so. They have to they have to But you yourself are a judge. They have to first they have to inform themselves about the real situation - how the situation was during the last months of the war, the last years of the war. Because it's there were some historians and they answered and just they wait and they said since '43, the Waffen-SS drafted the young - the young. Yes that's understood I am asking about the years after the war when you failed to mention it. This is the issue - is it not? But you see, as I told you in the 60s I spoke about it. Then for me it was more and more and still that's going on for years I know more and more about the crimes done by the Waffen SS that I didn't know before. And this is is the main reason that I kept it for me but always was acknowledged that I would write about it. Not as a confession, I was three months between the Waffen SS, all together all the circumstances of of my young years growing up in a closed society, growing up as an stupid at the end of the war. And astonished what how, what possibilities were open for me and because I survived, I survived it. Now between all of this destroyed cities but there was hope in the beginning. During those years when you criticized individuals in Germany for their Nazi past, did you never hesitate, did you never stop and say, "Perhaps I shouldn't be involved in this incrimination."? But but you see, when a man like Mr. Kiesinger became Chancellor in Germany and he was grown up person during the Nazi time. He was in the foreign office, he was a member of the Nazi Party since '33. He could be my father, and I wrote an open letter to him and I said that, "That's not possible after all what has happened in Germany that the man with your past and is the Chancellor now in our - in - in our country." This is it's because just for my generation, this people like Kiesinger and others they didn't tell us the truth as they see it, we did believe this people. There was no reason for me to accept that Mr. Adenauer from the beginning in his first government was a State Secretary, was the name Globke. Mr. Globke did write the commentary to race laws. But they were ashamed and you understood about being ashamed. I didn't didn't hear anything of shame of Mr. Globke. No no. There was no. There was normal and used to see us after this war that former members of the party had and we are really involved with the Nazi system were members of the government. I wonder if we could broaden this question into questions about Germany itself. We've already discussed how people thought it was necessary to be silent about the most import things in Germany. This is a quote from Sebald, from his "Natural History of Destruction". "The sense of unparalleled national humiliation felt by millions in the last years of the war had never found verbal expression and those directly affected by the experience neither shared it with each other or passed on to the next generation." My question to you is, do you think when you wrote your autobiography that you were trying finally to take that silence away for yourself and for Germany? Is it 1945, Germany that was absolute defeat. And in all of these years later, not only my generations, the older generation also, my children and my grand children are confronted to this problem up to now. And because we were always asked from outside in Auschwitz but also inside Germany, we first spoke about the crimes, done by Germans. I mentioned in my first novel, "The Tin Drum" also about all those million people 12 million German people who were put out off from East Germany, had to go to the West are described in two chapters. But it took me years years to write and kept walk about this part of the history, of this - this and now also in my last book. It's late to speak about this but that it was necessary to do it. It was the actions of the readers of this older generation, they were very thankful that there is some authors now were - are doing this and I am not the - not the only author in Germany who are writing about this. Perhaps, Kempowski you can read about and also about this the situations that run cities to one city out, it was the after to the end of the war. When there was no more reason to destroy cites, that were destroyed cleverly and this is still not written history of this part of the history of 20th century. Is there a generation now that feels that they are entitled in Germany to write about the experience you suffered, what was suffered there? With the horror of the Dresden bombing, you did write the book, about the sinking of the ship. Is that part of a move to finally confront your own suffering? I don't see this so as far - some are asking question about the story of a grandfather, then they go back about family stories from time to time and it's a kind of noble but not special about this. It's not something that people feel that the time has come to tell their own stories of horror and suffering. There having been a feeling for so many years that the country that caused so much suffering wasn't entitled to confront and discuss it's woven, as if that would be self pitying. But this is - I think that's - but I had started to write - to write several possibilities more artistic that danced around and trying this and trying this but then I saw, oh I had to accept that I had to write about my time. What has happened to my generation, what was happened to my country and I was confronted that there was no way out. This is quite different now with the young generation. One background of my writing is that I lost my hometown and after some time I saw that literature does give me the possibility to rebuild by language what is lost for all times and this is quite, different experience of the younger generation not only in Germany, in other countries too. Let's talk about some of those changes. In 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down many believed that it would begin a process whereby the troubles of the past would be finally laid to rest, that reunification would be a great thing. You did not think that why? That was a great choice not only in Germany this unification but they thought in Germany they can all do with money but that's not possible. There were 60 million people living in East Germany after the dictatorship of Nazi terms and the dictatorship of the Stalinistic era area and going on and on and you cannot change this from one date to another one and then you change the money. This is - this was a stupid idea, a really stupid idea. But that is right, but more than that, this was not only Germany. It was also Europe was divided and there was a hope that we could do now after the end of the cold war something other - something better. No more arms more here, arms here, but after a short time after short time the west was looking for new enemies. Now we have the situation we have now. We lost the possibility to use this great chance after the fall of the wall - to try other things and to - Because there was also something surely much more human and simple going on which was the - there was millions of people many of them on the east wanted something of what the people on the other side of the wall already had. But if you don't give the day mark, or the west mark to the east people they will run away. And very suddenly they had this money but they still run away now with the money. They still run away, there was no hope, because the most unemployed people you have in the east part of Germany now after such a long time of unification, but as I told you before that's not only a question of Germany. That's also - all these mistakes that we have done from the European point of view in the Balkan situation, this all this terrible following disaster. I wonder if there was an element of self punishment in the notion that Germany should never be reunited ship, should never be a powerful nation at the center of Europe again? But this is - if you like - we Germans did lose two wars in the nineteenth century and the last war was really, the end was a disaster. And the discussion is going on not only about the people who were really involved in the Nazi time and also my generation also as I told you my children and my grandchildren are still confronted with this question. The same questions you are doing today. Then as maybe from time to time that's what what about the _____. They never think about mistakes they have done. It's only the possibility for people who have really lost wars to think about themselves because they are forced from inside and from outside. It's the kind of irony of of history that this terrible defeat did give us in Germany a chance to think about our self, about the German hubris begins and ends in 19th century. Long before Hitler time this this hubris was growing. And I think we have done this, we have done this from generation to generation up till to my children and have done this, we have done this from generation to generation up till to my children and grandchildren that see around, we still speak about it, we were forced from outside but also by our own decision. We discussed it. But and - but then from time to time I am I am glad if people outside of Germany are also able to speak their own mistakes. Well let's talk about that in relation to where we are now. We are in America. Would a point come where America has to deal with the shame and their guilt over recent wars, especially Iraq? There are reasons to do it but I am not sure about it because the war is not the Vietnam War, now the Iraq war is very far away. Life is going on in America. Only US soldiers if they come back. But when they come back they will be blessed all the rest of their lives. They will have their trauma. And it will be very difficult for them to find people who are able to listen them. Do you think if they are able to speak about it. Do you think America has no more appetite for confronting its shame than you did? But I mean, nobody likes to speak about - all the time but but to look for the reasons, to ask yourself how it could be possible that a country like Germany with all this processes of renaissance and enlightenment and clever people and we are able to believe in this. That was the question I asked myself I got my lessons. I got my lessons in my young young years but but this lessons, this is terrible. You only get in such terrible times was was this kind of experiences. Do you think the relationship between Europe and America has changed since the event of 9/11? The power of United States is still the same but it was changed as an I think we have the feeling it's going down with America. They have still more inspiration coming from this country. In the 60s when I was first time here I was very much involved in Germany policy and helped the social democrats and I have got the inspiration here when I saw during the election campaign in United States so many young people who really took their time and helped this case that Democrat country don't and did the lot by them self as a citizen, and all citizens. It was this inspiration I got in this country and I tried the same and Germany was so called (german speaking) even and it was in '65 and the day in '69 when Willy Brandt became Chancellor it was very helpful. This kind of inspiration is not coming anymore from here. Perhaps it is coming up in this next election but let's see. You speak in the new book of quote, "The hatred of a mother's boy for his father." It comes up a lot in your books. Did you hate your father? No definitely not. But when I was a boy because he couldn't understand me and it was very difficult to understand it because I was really a nasty boy and and I had to only my - my imagination in my head and my father tried to do his best. He couldn't he never understood this. That was his right. And when I came back from Paris, when I after long office open up, wrote my first novel came back and it was "The Tin Drum." He told me I am very proud about you and and he never read one book of mine. And but he was proud he was proud, some years later he visited me in Berlin and he was very much in sorrow because he hadn't seen me for some months in television. This was important for him. Let's talk about what you wrote. You say you say in the book,"the man I wanted to murder with my Hitler youth dagger and had stabbed many times over in my thoughts." This is important no? Yeah but but you see this this kind of ideas in the head of this 13 or 14-years-old boy has nothing to do with the Nazi time or in especially with Germany. This kind of of crazy behavior is all over in terms of there is a conflict between father and son, you have this stupid ideas and if you have this stupid weapon also beside you, you think you can use it by sorts. Did you Gunter, at any point in your life ever, taken interest in the other great religion of the 20th century, psychoanalysis? No, it wasn't once when when I had trouble in my my own family, one or two years before divorce of my first marriage, two women came together. My first wife, not a woman I liked very much and this book was I cooked for them. I cooked for them and then they spoke about they both said I have mother complex. I said that's true that's true. It's all the money I earn is was my mother complex without my mother complex I couldn't be an artist. But that they'd go on speaking about it and they said after they have eaten all I have cooked before, we shall bring into analyst and I said the only person who is earning money was my mother complex with me, not the analyst and and this is was my reaction because this mother complex belongs to me. I never will allow anybody to steal it. You mentioned of foods. Foods are very hard, what for Scottish people to say food essence you talk about your experience of hunger in 1945 and you had cookery lessons. Food comes up a lot in your work. Your novel "The Flounder" begins with a fish, distinguishing between raw food and cooked food. In "The Tin Drum" of course Oskar's mother sees eels in a dead horse's head and dies because of the disgust. What role does foods play in your imagination? This Yeah. Well, the food is not the only question of fantasy, that's it's the main question of all world. We are able to go to the moon, we have marvelous modern ways of communication everything and we get used in a second, from one point to another point of the world but we are still not able to feed the population of this world. This is still the main problem we have and this the one of the reasons I wrote this novels "The Flounder." To ask this question, yes, but what the what did people do? This is that's not only feet as is also hunger, that belongs altogether isn't, in my book I have described this abstract, you know, learning of cooking in an American prison camp - we are all. we are very hungry but like Germans out there like to organize them self and to put in this prison campus, 10000 people; you could learn Greek language and Latin and mathematic and different things but also cooking. But without anything, only abstract and this I wrote about because it's the it was a it's the best way to make clear what hunger, hunger means? Today, in New York the Kasher Gallery is showing your etchings and lithographs. One work shows an eel in a woman's vagina. Would you care to comment? I know that eels wanted to go everywhere where is a hole. I described it in "The Tin Drum" with the head of a horse. It was very unusual the fish with with such a head and in erotic dreams, not only in erotic dreams, I think it's in eels have no limit. There is in - You are astonished! Yes, quite astonished. That is interesting though for an eel I mean, and eels have come up again and again in your work. And you have connected in a sense for 50 years you've been connecting food, sex, death, shame and disgust and eels, I am just interested in that. Yeah. There is no end. There is no end. Did you see any change in or any reason not to see this relation? I am asking the questions, okay. What do you say to the rise of neo-Nazism in Scandinavia and Poland and in France? I am fascinated to hear what you think of that and why you think its happening? This sort of the ideology, fascism started before they grow up in Germany. The strongest movement was in Italy. With Mussolini and they are actually in Germany, Hitler was the epitome of Mussolini. Also the youth movement in Germany and so called Hitler Youth was the model was that Opera Nazionale Balilla Those going all over Europe in this time and as I think, still this is is if there is a critical social situation and and if the Democratic party is not able to solve the social problems. There will be always chance if there is a enemy, so called enemies you can you can mix up all this and you will have a basis for for this special kind of neo-fascism. With racism, without racism, I mean, perhaps this was the only difference between the Italian fascism and the Germans German was rascistic not the Italian one. But this is this is going on and the question is it is always the fault of the Democratic Parties that they are not able plus and this, times and when we have only one ideology, the capitalistic system. So I am not able to solve the social problems and you there is no reason that will be wanted. If if fascistic party is going also United States, it will have it. You think that it's likely the temperature of the tension and the Before before I speak. It's very difficult to speak with this it misleads the people who are into fascistic movement. We have to ask first as the Democratic Party? What mistakes we are doing? There is no reason to allow the capitalistic system to destroy the social systems all over the world to do it, and then we are then we are astonished that fascistic parties are growing. In the end, Peeling the Onion the new book is a very uplifting one. For it shows the journey a writer must make towards consciousness. Yours has been a famous journey. Late in the book you indicate receiving the Nobel prize was an ironically distanced pleasure that caught and struck you as little more than one more job title. Is that so? I was more than 70 years while doing that heard about that Nobel prize and but the the discussion about it was going on 20 years every autumn. And nothing happened, the next year the same the same day. And then suddenly the telephone rings and my wife said, oh my god and then I understood. And we were laughing, if it's so it's all right but on this day we had a date. Not with the _________ that is but with the dentist. And I said to her, let's go to the dentist. Let's make our normal life and then afterwards we with some friends together we will celebrate the Nobel Prize. Yeah this was very helpful. But if I really look back and you ask me what prizes was very important, really important for you. it was my - the first prize I got from the group 47. That was a group of German writers after the war they, tried to something together and I there, the there was usual to to read from the manuscript. Not not the printed books and I did read two chapters of "The Tin Drum" and I got this prize. And with the money of this prize I was able to finish my first novel, it's out to hurry up, I could do it. And this was very helpful and this I think, for me it was much more important than the Nobel Prize at this time. Nobel Prize is something marvelous yes but the and I am very grateful I got it very late if if you get it was perhaps it was 45 years it could be a burden. But in my age I could - took it ironically. And let me ask you let me ask you Gunter what will you write now? You see when I finished the manuscript I I changed the toys. And mostly I make terracotta features or etchings or lithographs and or poetry. And this I did after the last book poetry and etchings and the ones took as a now I am back to prose but I don't speak about. Maybe what - of more eels would - drawings of eels on the horizon? Gunter Grass thanks very much.