If Charles Powell had been marginally more imaginative and a bit less insular he would have invited Günter Grass to the notorious Chequers teach-in on Germany. True, it would have meant abandoning foolish fifth-form prejudices and avoiding banal generalities on German 'character', but the Prime Minister might have found it an instructive lesson in history from Germany's foremost novelist. Grass would have talked 'about the narrow-mindedness of this man [Kohl], his refusal to learn, his obtrusive know-it-all attitude – this man is simply unbearable as federal chancellor.'
The essays brought together in this volume are both timely and stimulating. The 'German Question' dominates Europe once again and this fact depresses Grass a great deal. He has consistently opposed reunification, arguing instead for a Confederation of two German states. For speaking these thoughts aloud, for saying that after Auschwitz Germans had forfeited their precious unity forever and remarks of this sort, he has been vilified. 'Traitor to the Fatherland!' 'Rootless cosmopolitan.' Time to do away with the likes of him.
Grass has a strong case. He reminds us that a unified German state existed for only seventy-five years: under the Prussians, in the embrace of the rickety Weimar Republic and finally the Third