A novelist, poet and playwright who became an outspoken public figure, winning international recognition and a Nobel Prize, has died.
CNN reports that German writer Gunter Grass, best known for his 1959 first novel “The Tin Drum,” died in a clinic in Luebeck, Germany, reportedly of pneumonia. He was 87.
“Grass focused in much of his work on learning from the horror of war and genocide by exploring motifs from his childhood city of Danzig, which is now Gdansk, Poland,” CNN reports. “During the Nazi era, ethnic Poles and Jews were persecuted and deported from the multicultural city, at a time when they faced the possibility of mass murder.”
The report quotes the Nobel committee, in awarding the 1999 Prize for literature to Grass, writing: “In his excavation of the past, Gunter Grass goes deeper than most and he unearths the intertwined roots of good and evil.”
But Grass became the focus of controversy in the past decade.
“In 2006, he confessed that at the age of 15, in 1943, he volunteered for military service in Germany’s war of aggression and ended up in the notoriously bloody Waffen SS,” CNN reports. “Grass said he had no excuses for his choices back then, and that, as a teen, he may even have been excited about belonging to the unit, which he saw then as an elite group.”