Of All That Ends - Gunter Grass, Breon Mitchell

Staff Pick

The 2015 death of Nobel laureate Günter Grass deprived the world of one of its most intriguing and controversial literary minds; Grass memorably mixed myth and political reality, and especially appealed to readers intrigued by what it meant to be a German citizen during and immediately after the Nazi era. Now available in English, Grass’s final book, Of All That Ends (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28), is as apt a swan song as you might expect from so large, yet so humble, a figure as Grass. Following a string of late-life autobiographies, this book is a series of vignettes, poems, and Grass’s own pencil drawings. The pieces flow loosely from one to the next, and cycle back through a stream of lyrical images (the coffins in which he and his wife will soon lie, his beloved typewriter, the one original tooth still left in his mouth). In the end, it’s a bittersweet, melodious glimpse of Grass’s life in the twenty-first century, which ranged from watching social media from afar to lamenting Germany’s dominant stance in the EU to (as in his earlier work The Flounder) letting loose some of the most evocative writing about food you’ll find anywhere. No single volume can contain Grass’s whole, magisterial spirit, but this is a beautiful distillation.