A Liberating Vomit

Paths of the Disgust in the Novel Die Blechtrommel by Günter Grass (1959)

Massimo Bonifazio    Università di Torino, Italia    



At the core of Günter Grass’ literary work lies a marked interest for elements normally thought of as unpleasant, vile and nauseating. Part of the fascination of his books resides precisely in the possibility of observing the world from a different point of view, that is to say, from a crooked perspective which defies mainstream taste. The Tin Drum (1959) offers a clear example of this inclination: Oskar’s decision to linger in a state of extended childhood can be associated with the Freudian reflection on the human psyche, more specifically with the idea of the child as ‘polymorphic pervert’, indifferent to or even fond of things which adults are bound to find disgusting. In the novel The Flounder (1978) we find a similar constellation, although phylogenetically situated in history. In such context, the focus on food and on cooking conveys singular undertones. The use of the grotesque in Grass’ work is strictly linked to dietary elements, such as: the canned fish Oskar’s mother gulps down in order to kill herself, the insistence on entrails, the recurring use of figures of speech regarding food, and the whole context of The Flounder, in which the history of man’s violence runs parallel to a feminine cooking history rich in grotesque figures, like Mestwina or the anorexic saint Dorothea von Montau. Through Grass’ work, the idea of ‘disgust’ thus becomes a useful tool for investigating contemporary scenarios in the relationships humans establish with each other and with their history.

Sept. 30, 2016
July 31, 2016
May 20, 2016

Keywords: Food in literatureThe tin drumDisgustGünter Grass

Copyright: © 2016 Massimo Bonifazio. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.