Too Far Afield; Cover Design

Günter Grass

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Too Far Afield; Cover Design
1995
Lithograph
23.2 x 16.5 in. / 59.4 x 42 cm

Description

„As they walked, they again formed a pair. The two coats interwoven. Seen from behind, they offered a harmonious image. And they leaned in unison into the wind blowing from the northwest.” 

This is Grass's description in his novel Too Far Afield (1995) of the two protagonists, Theo Wuttke, aka Fonty, and his »day-and-night shadow« Hoftaller, who worked as a spy for the Stasi. Despite being inseparable, their relationship is not free from conflicts. The lithograph that ties in with this passage is also the cover of the first edition. The twosome is shown from the back. The long coats make for a closed, compact shape of the figures leaning closely together. Their bodies are slightly inclined to the left, as if they are struggling against a strong resistance. The clearly defined volumes point to Grass as sculptor, who dispenses with details.

The novel narrates Fonty's and Hoftaller's experiences during the time of the German reunification in 1989/90. Grass relates the 20th century events to the 19th century with Fonty regarding himself as revenant of Theodor Fontane. The Prussion writer thus acts as a hinge figure in the narration. It is therefore no coincidence that Fonty's features resemble those of Fontane as portrayed by Max Liebermann.

Grass created a number of pencil, sepia, and charcoal drawings, as well as lithographs, while working on the novel. The two main characters are frequently presented as silhouettes in various situations. Johannes Bunk, a gallery owner in the town of Neuruppin, points out that Fonty and Hoftaller can be seen as a figurative metaphor for the relations between East and West Germans shortly after the reunification: »The text of the novel and the pictures can be read as two narratives of the same subject: the not-quite-complete unification of Germany and the merging of art, literature, and politics as aspired to by the coeval (Günter Grass) in his life's work.«