»Der Kuß« (»The Kiss«) is originally a terra-cotta relief that was later cast in bronze. Inspired by the fairy tale »The Fisherman and his Wife«, Günter Grass creates the motif »Ilsebill küsst den Fisch« (»Ilsebill Kisses the Fish«) while working on his novel The Flounder (1977). He uses it with varying titles in a number of etchings. In comparison to the graphic realization, the relief achieves entirely new surface effects by the play of light and shadow. The results are a contrasting of textures and structures as well as a converging of forms: The surface of the puffy fish head with its arched scales and fine furrows contrasts with the young woman's smooth skin.
The flounder and the young woman are about to kiss, with their faces close together, almost merging. In the etching »Kuß II« (»Kiss II«) (1975), which precedes the image on the relief, the assimilation of forms stands out even clearer: In the moment of the kiss, the young woman adopts the cold, almost brutal traits of the fish, and her eyes bulge like the googly fish eyes.
Without laying claim to illustrate his novel, this relief ties in with a scene from The Flounder (1977), which was published 16 years prior to the relief. In the novel, young Dorothea summons the talking flounder: “So Dorothea went to see the Flounder. She took with her all her beauty and untarnished youth … I had instructed her, “You must go into the sea. When you are up to your knees, call him several times, give him my regards. Then he’ll come, and perhaps if you kiss him he’ll tell you something. Wish for something; wish for something” … When Dorothea came home, I saw that her mouth was twisted and no longer ran parallel to the axis of her eyes. From then on she had a sardonic expression, which enhanced her beauty …”