07.34a

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Norman Mailer: Works and Days
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“Life Sentences: The U.S. Tour of Günter Grass.” Article-interview by David Streitfeld. Washington Post Book World, 12-18 August, 1, 8-9. Long analysis of the reception of Grass’s latest book, Peeling the Onion, a memoir, which includes his admission of having served as a teenager in the Waffen-SS, an elite unit that ran Hitler’s concentration camps. Mailer appeared with Grass at the New York Public Library on 27 June, his penultimate public appearance.

Mailer, “who looked small and round and frail, sort of like the aged Bilbo in The Lord of the Rings,” defended Grass and called his book a masterpiece. He noted that he had been unable to write about the stabbing of his wife, Adele Morales, and therefore understood why it had taken Grass so long to reveal his secret Nazi affiliation: “If you can’t do it so it enlarges not only your own focus, but the focus of others, you’re better off not writing about it.” He said the stabbing was undoubtedly the reason he was not ever seriously considered for the Nobel Prize, adding this: “The Swedes are very intelligent people and they’re proud of their prize, and they’re damned if they want to give their prize to a wife stabber, and as sour and bitter as I am, I don’t think I can blame them.” Mailer said the extract from Grass’s book in The New Yorker was “certainly the best thing” in the magazine for a decade. See 07.35.