Novemberland, 4

Günter Grass

Novemberland, 4
Novemberland, 4
15.6 x 11.7 in. / 39.7 x 29.8 cm


»All Souls« is the title of Grass's fourth poem, written directly into the sepia drawing associated with it, in his lyric volume Novemberland (1993). The sheet is dominated by a large "4" surrounded by a number of grave crosses. The crosses recede toward the background, intermingling with the letters of the text.

»All Souls« – the day of prayer and remembrance for the souls of the dead. But who are the dead who are commemorated here? The answer is already indicated in the first line: »I flew to Poland, November at my side.« The poem is about those who died in Poland, more precisely in former Eastern Pomerania, the lost home of the lyrical subject, as becomes clear in the third stanza: »So soaked in neighborliness, so far astray for years«. History has alienated Germany and Poland from one another. Only the dead, the victims of Nazi crimes, are commemorated together. They forever bind the two countries to one another. 

The lyric volume comprises thirteen poems written by Günter Grass in reaction to the right-wing extremist assaults on asylum seekers and Turks in Rostock and Mölln in the fall of 1992. In this reference to the German past, Grass counteracts the horrible outbreak of chaos and xenophobic violence with the strict form of the sonnet, which is usually composed of two quatrains and one sestet. Neither Shakespeare nor Petrarca, however, were the ones who Grass took inspiration from, but rather Andreas Gryphius, a baroque poet who recorded the horrors of the Thirty Years' War in haunting sonnets.