Lousy Poetry, Lousy Politics

The left has dominated the arts–pretty much all of them, are there any exceptions other than country music?–throughout the modern era. And yet, how much good left-wing art has been created? Surprisingly little, it seems to me. But the latest from Gunter Grass is an especially lame instance of the genre.

Grass, if you don’t recall him, is an 84-year-old German novelist whose best-known work is his first book, The Tin Drum, which was set before, during and after World War II. Grass was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999, even though his writing has had little impact for some decades. At one time, Grass was hailed as the conscience of post-war Germany, but then it came out that he served in a Waffen-SS Panzer division in the latter part of the war. I don’t hold that against him; he was really a boy at the time. Still, most people, if they had a stint in the SS in their past, would have the delicacy to avoid posing as a moral arbiter.

Not Gunter Grass. Inoculated by his left-wing politics, he assumes the right to instruct others, most recently, his bete noir, the state of Israel–again, a target that a former SS soldier might deem it prudent to avoid. Grass has written a poem called “What Must Be Said,” which has been published this week in multiple European newspapers, including the Sueddeutsche Zeitung and Italy’s La Repubblica. Grass’s poem warns against a possible strike by Israel against Iran, and protests Germany’s sale of a submarine to Israel.

The politics are entirely predictable, but what I want to comment on is how terrible the poem is. You can read a translation of it here. Now, to be fair, any poem will lose something in translation, and this particular version sounds a bit like instructions for use of a product that were written in German and translated into English. But is there any conceivable translation that could turn this into actual poetry?

That is the claimed right to the formal preventive aggression
which could erase the Iranian people
dominated by a bouncer and moved to an organized jubilation,
because in the area of his competence there is
the construction of the atomic bomb.

Or this:

Now, since my country,
from time to time touched by unique and exclusive crimes,
obliged to justify itself,
again for pure business aims – even if
with fast tongue we call it “reparation” –
should deliver another submarine to Israel,
with the specialty of addressing
annihilating warheads where the
existence of one atomic bomb is not proved
but it wants evidence as a scarecrow,
I say what must be said.

And this:

And I admit: I won’t be silent
because I had enough of the Western hypocrisy;
Because I wish that many will want
to get rid of the silence,
exhorting the cause of a recognizable
risk to the abdication, asking that a free and permanent control
of the Israel atomic power
and the Iran nuclear bases
will be made by both the governments
with an international supervision.

Other news sources have quoted somewhat different translations, but you get the picture. That isn’t poetry, it is mindless left-wing noodling with occasional line breaks.

I don’t think there was ever actually a time when patriotism was the last refuge of a scoundrel, but isn’t it obvious that leftism is the last refuge not only of scoundrels, but of the untalented, the over the hill, the too scared to be anything but conventional, and the depraved?


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