The setting is Danzig during World War II. The narrator recalls a boyhood scene in which a black cat pounces on his friend Mahlke’s “mouse”-his prominent Adam’s apple. This incident sets off a wild series of events that ultimately leads to Mahlke’s becoming a national hero. Translated by Ralph Manheim. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book
The story is a coming of age story of adolescent boys at a time where they are facing war after they are no longer school boys. There is some crudity and sexual themes but then, isn't adolescent boys full of crudity and sexual talk? A story of boyhood and adolescence in WWII Danzig.
Symbols and motifs abound. The Adam's apple and the objects that are hung around his neck; screwdriver, virgin Mary necklace, pom poms, mufflers, Iron Cross.
The atmosphere is one of impending crisis. The reader is drawn along, knowing no good will be the conclusion to the study of Mahlke by this Pilenz.
This book tells the story of The Great Mahlke, a classmate the writer was infatuated with as a teenager, against the backdrop of World War II. From the beginning the writer hints at tragedy to come, but everything is told very matter of factly, the way a teenager would tell it. Grass is a great and respected writer, Nobel Prize winner, and yet, I did not like this. It's hard to say why. I found it hard to relate to the characters, and felt no great urge to "know what happened next" either. Perhaps it has lost too much in translation? I think it is just me: I did not like The Tin Drum either.”