cover image The Living Statue: A Legend

The Living Statue: A Legend

Günter Grass, trans. from the German by Michael Hofmann. New Directions, $12.95 trade paper (64p) ISBN 978-0-8112-3810-6

Nobel winner Grass (1927–2015) wrote this alluring allegory against capitalism and nationalism in 2003. While touring a cathedral in the late 1980s GDR, the unnamed narrator, a West German author, remembers how the Nazi era’s “nationalist nonsense” extended to the medieval figures depicted among the cathedral’s statues, including disdained Polish princess Reglindis, and Reglindis’s successor, Uta of Naumburg, who was exalted as a “true Nordic” exemplar of the Aryan race. Then, in a fantastical twist (“You can do anything on paper,” the narrator offers by way of explanation), he invites the sculptures’ subjects to lunch. The delightfully strange episode unfolds like a scene from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure as the medieval guests enjoy fish sticks and Uta gets hooked on Coca-Cola. The narrator’s fascination with Uta continues over the years as he travels to various cities in search of a living statue busker made up as Ute, and the story culminates in modern-day Frankfurt, where the narrator and the busker conspire in a drastic act, which Grass depicts in striking detail. There’s a pleasingly timeless quality to this time capsule from a master. ,em>(Oct.)