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What Must Be Said by Günter Grass

Sunday, 3 Mar 2013

Günter Grass on Staff and Scrip, Dr John Dunn First posted Thursday, 19 April 2012 at 16:52

The Nobel laureate has written one of the momentous poems of European literature. It is certainly a landmark poem of the 21st century.

This lyrical poem draws attention to art actually in the process of doing what all great art should do.

This poem, in simple and direct language, uncovers a truth that lies hidden below the surface.

The nature of the subject-matter, however, allows Grass to turn irony back upon the truth revealed.

Thisis because of the monstrous hypocrisy that surrounds the presentations of Israel’s raison d’être in Western media, politics, conformist art and, most hideously of all, education. It will draw a smile of knowing from the thinking reader.


Lies are often paraded as unquestioned truth, whilst the art of a great poem is the truth.

John Dunn.

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What Must Be Said

Why do I stay silent, conceal for too long
What clearly is and has been
Practiced in war games, at the end of which we as survivors
Are at best footnotes.

It is the alleged right to first strike
That could annihilate the Iranian people--
Enslaved by a loud-mouth
And guided to organized jubilation--
Because in their territory,
It is suspected, a bomb is being built.

Yet why do I forbid myself
To name that other country
In which, for years, even if secretly,
There has been a growing nuclear potential at hand
But beyond control, because no testing is available?

The universal concealment of these facts,
To which my silence subordinated itself,
I sense as incriminating lies
And force--the punishment is promised
As soon as it is ignored;
The verdict of "anti-Semitism" is familiar.

Now, though, because in my country
Which from time to time has sought and confronted
The very crime
That is without compare
In turn on a purely commercial basis, if also
With nimble lips calling it a reparation, declares
A further U-boat should be delivered to Israel,
Whose specialty consists of guiding all-destroying warheads to where the existence
Of a single atomic bomb is unproven,
But through fear of what may be conclusive,
I say what must be said.

Why though have I stayed silent until now?
Because I think my origin,
Which has never been affected by this obliterating flaw,
Forbids this fact to be expected as pronounced truth
Of the country of Israel, to which I am bound
And wish to stay bound.

Why do I say only now,
Aged and with my last ink,
That the nuclear power of Israel endangers
The already fragile world peace?
Because it must be said
What even tomorrow may be too late to say;
Also because we--as Germans burdened enough--
Could be the suppliers to a crime
That is foreseeable, wherefore our complicity
Could not be redeemed through any of the usual excuses.

And granted: I am silent no longer
Because I am tired of the hypocrisy
Of the West; in addition to which it is to be hoped
That this will free many from silence,
Prompt the perpetrator of the recognized danger
To renounce violence and
Likewise insist
That an unhindered and permanent control
Of the Israeli nuclear potential
And the Iranian nuclear sites
Be authorized through an international agency
Of the governments of both countries.

Only this way are all, the Israelis and Palestinians,
Even more, all people, that in this
Region occupied by mania
Live cheek by jowl among enemies,
In the end also to help us.

Günter Grass.

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