In the 1980s Günter Grass dedicates himself to modeling with clay. Besides busts of his wife and of some of his children, he also creates en entire menagerie of geese, grasshoppers, spiders, and snails. He admits: »I did not miss writing.« He continues: »But then the issue of buying a rat – it was a wish for Christmas! – was broached and ever since ticked incessantly, concocting words, sentences, sentence cascades. I started writing the beginning of a fable with black-burning clay on moist sheets of clay that would later burn white, then slightly bulged these portrait-format sheets, folded them, rolled them halfway up, and increased their number from week to week as first manuscript pages for the novel-to-be The Rat. Soon more than twenty sheets were drying on the lattice frame, ready to be burnt. I would have liked to continue in this way until a book, unbound and consisting of five hundred individual terra-cotta sheets, would have crowded my workshop as a unique specimen...«
One of these clay sheets of his new novel The Rat (1986) is eventually cast in bronze in the form of an open book. After a writer's block of many years, Grass finds back to the word thanks to terra-cotta clay and the »Christmas gift«. Along with the clay sheets, he also makes clay rat figures while working on the novel. He additionally produces a number of graphics with rat motif, such as »The Rat in Front of Danzig« or »...and the Smurfs stay«, which appear in the literary text.