The she-rat

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The Rat is an apocalyptic novel by the German writer Günter Grass published in 1986.

Structure and content

The plot is composed of many narrative strands and alternates between the genres of fairy tales, travelogues and surreal novels. It also contains cinematic perspectives and some poems. The dialogues between the nameless first-person narrator and a female rat , whom he calls a rat , run through the work as a common thread . In Die Rättin, Grass continues some narrative strands of his successful novels Die Blechtrommel as well as Der Flounder , passages about ship disasters, such as the sinking of Wilhelm Gustloff , anticipate aspects of his book Im Krebsgang .

Grass conceived the novel as a counter-image to Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's image of the upbringing of the human race : Humanity (Grass deliberately uses the old-fashioned word “human race”) learned to “eat virtue with spoons, diligently add the subjunctive and tolerance practice ”, but all clarification did not bring about a grip on her tendency to violence.

In the dreams of the narrator, who is apparently circling the devastated earth in a spaceship , a speaking female rat forces the vision of the demise of mankind and the succession of their dominant position by rats. The rats are building a new civilization based on solidarity in a world destroyed by forest dieback , environmental pollution and nuclear warfare.

Against these visions, the narrator develops his own stories in the run-up to the nuclear apocalypse, partly as film scripts for Oskar Matzerath, who has advanced to media czar through a porn series, among other things: by the painter Lothar Malskat and the Restoration of the 1950s, about the dead forests and the dying force the fairy tales and five beloved women who officially investigate the local jellyfish population in the Baltic Sea and secretly search for the fabulous Vineta as a place of female utopia. In addition, the Smurfs are out and about in the German Forest and the Brothers Grimm temporarily take over government.

He relives the (alleged) downfall of mankind based on the fates of different people. In a concluding conversation between the she-rat and the narrator , the foregoing is again called into question. The two cannot agree whether the rat is just a dream of the narrator or whether this - together with the rest of humanity - is merely a figment of the imagination of the rats that have remained on earth. The possibilities of his polyphonic narrative concept, initially originally and imaginatively designed in the first third, are not further developed and used in the further part.

Background and references

The Chernobyl reactor disaster a few months after the book was published gave the author's warning gesture a certain topicality. Among other things, Grass referred to further controversies, such as genetic engineering, with the inclusion of genetically modified rats, the Watsoncricks. The name Watsoncrick alludes to the Nobel Prize for Medicine and discoverers of the molecular structure of deoxyribonucleic acid Francis Crick and James Watson .


Under the title Günter Ratte: Der Grass [1] a parody appeared before the original was published. The until today anonymous author apparently had access to Grass' manuscript. Der Spiegel found that the stale jokes that targeted the social democratic porn film producer Mike Matzerath, who wrote the Godesberg program under the pseudonym Willi Brandt and then wanted to film what he failed to do , were too tormented . According to Rebecca Braun, lecturer in German and Grass specialist at Lancaster University , the parody treats Grass' public role, perceived as exaggerated, in political Berlin and his tired, unfinished political ideas as the single work itself.



The Rat was made into a film in 1997. Directed by Martin Buchhorn based on a script by Renate Fräßdorf . The cameraman was Klaus Peter Weber . It played Matthias Habich , Sunnyi Melles , Peter Radtke , Dieter Laser , Helene Grass , Angelika Bartsch , Edda Leesch , Carola Regnier , Stephen Schwartz , Katharina Thalbach . Grass himself distanced himself from the film adaptation.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d table of contents and discussion at
  2. DTV washing slip
  3. a b The poet-seer as poet-warner: Change of a mythical model in Koeppen, Wolf and Grass, Anastasia Manola, Königshausen & Neumann, 2010
  4. ^ Günter Ratte Der Grass - "The literary boy piece" , Eichborn Verlag 1986
  5. 02/10/1986 Grass parody: a boy play? Der Spiegel ( Memento from March 6, 2016 in the Internet Archive )
  6. Constructing Authorship in the Work of Günter Grass, Rebecca Braun, Oxford University Press, Oxford Modern Languages ​​and Literature Monographs, Rebecca Braun, Oxford University Press, 2008, ISBN 9780199542703 . Quotation, p. 57: "Only very loosely engaging with the real novel, it focuses instead on how an oversized Grass storms through the Berlin underworld showering all and sundry with his half-baked political ideas."