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When I first started reading the book, I recognized it as great literature. The image of little Oskar Matzerath's grandfather climbing under the skirts of a Kashubian potato lady not only engaged my interest but is described so well and with a flowing ease that only the great possess. But as I read on, the prose became more and more tedious to me. There is simply too much background information on German history, which is all relevant, of course, but makes for pretty boring reading unless you're interested in that topic. Plus, the names of the cities are so difficult to pronounce and so frequently mentioned that I found this to be a hindrance as well. All in all, I would say that Tin Drum definitely deserves to be a classic, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.
This is a surreal and darkly comic chronicle of Germany through the first half of this century. While comedy may seem out of place with the rise of National Socialism, this is the result of the unusual narrator and hero, Oskar Matzerath. Combining a keen intelligence with the body of a child, he guides you through horror and absurdity to the beat of a toy drum. The setting is the city of Danzig, then controlled by Germany and bordering on Poland. This dual nationality is reflected throughout, from the conflicts of war to Oskar's two possible fathers. Alfred, German, is a respectable shopkeeper, but his civic pride extends to joining the Nazi party. It is Alfred who marries Oskar's mother but the rival, Polish Jan Bronski has a matching influence on his childhood. Oskar highlights these contrasts, describing life as a combination of beauty and blasphemy: Goethe and Rasputin. While Oskar uses his stature as a defence, his role is a chronicler - and instigator - of events. The imaginative and uncompromising viewpoint reveals many things that those around him overlook. The persecution of Jewish shopkeepers, and brief Polish struggle in 1939, are told in vivid detail. But even the darkest moments are tinged with comedy and absurdity. The Tin Drum is a large volume, appropriate to its scope. Irrepressible narration and a fascination for the grotesque prevent it dragging. Oskar, charming and bizarre, is a good companion for this epic chronicle.
A magically empowered dwarf who expresses his emotions by banging a tin drum witnesses the rise and fall of Hitler and the Nazis.