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Cat and Mouse Paperback – 17 Mar 1997

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (17 Mar. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0749394803
  • ISBN-13: 978-0749394806
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 73,156 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Grass is one of the master fabulists of our age" (Michale Ratcliffe The Times)

"Grass is probably the nearest thing we have to a certain genius in living novelists" (Marghanita Laski)

"Grass is one of the few great writers in Europe today" (Sunday Telegraph)

Book Description

A powerful story set in war-torn Danzig about a teenager’s rise from clown to hero by Nobel Prize-winner Gunter Grass.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. Dowden HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 21 July 2015
Format: Paperback
This is the second book of what is now known as the Danzig Trilogy although if you haven’t read the first book, The Tin Drum don’t worry as this isn’t a continuation of that, although it is set in the same area and there is a character here with his tin drum that could well be Oskar.

Narrated by Pilenz we read here of his friend Joachim Mahlke. As you will see if you decide to read this the vast majority of the book takes place whilst the characters are still at school, with the last part only when they go off to war. Mahlke is an enigma, what with his prominent Adam’s apple and large penis. At times this does become slightly incoherent as our narrator changes things and places them out of chronological order, but then memory does such things. We can never really be sure of Pilenz’s motivation or indeed Mahlke’s, although with the latter he is to some extent an outsider, someone who doesn’t conform in the conventional way.

Mahlke only really comes into prominence when he learns to swim, and is a good diver. But although he hangs with the other youths he is always slightly outside the circle, especially when it comes to some of his strange habits and beliefs. Wanting to be a clown Mahlke really has no aptitude for it, but of course it is wartime and like everyone else he has to go off and fight, becoming a hero in the process.

A story of war and how the Second World War destroyed talent and creativity with so many dying, as well as how you had to fit in with the system, especially in such a place where the Nazi regime ruled, this also still offers much to the modern reader. Mahlke can be seen as a troubled and uncertain person in his teens here, where most also feel the same, so in a way this book talks to us about growing up.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dan Crawford on 19 July 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is Grass' follow-up novel to one of the greatest novels of all time: 'The Tin Drum', which is the first of 'The Danzig Trilogy' (of which this is the second). As such, it was likely to be slightly disappointing, and I'm afraid that - in that - it fails to disappoint.

That was perhaps a convoluted way of starting a review, but it was to illustrate that in order to enjoy Grass, you have to be the kind of reader who enjoys unpicking complicated sentences and descriptions. Grass has a beautiful way of helping us to visualise his world, though he is simple when he needs to be (such as when describing the layout of streets and houses). Indeed, the images of Danzig and 'the barge' will no doubt outlast my memories of plot and character, which are considerably weaker here than in 'The Tin Drum'.

The whole book feels understated and anticlimactic, and I can't tell whether this is due to the book itself or the overshadowing effect of its predecessor. It just kept nearly-taking-off.

The motivations of its characters are also sometimes a little difficult to grasp and therefore their actions can be a little baffling. This does, however, fit with the overriding theme of curiosity and hero-worship, but I never really understood what made its principal character, Mahlke, heroic, and the 'Nazi violence, war, and its aftermath' part of the back cover promise is entirely absent, where it was a pervasive undercurrent in 'The Tin Drum.'

This is a well written, enjoyable and interesting book. It's not one I'm likely to read again, but I'm still looking forward to reading 'Dog Years', which is the third in his 'trilogy'.
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8 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 15 Feb. 1999
Format: Hardcover
Cat and Mouse is the star of the Danzig Trilogy. It is short and to the point. The characters vivid and "knowable." Grass is a writer that everone should give a shot. I suggest my method -- two or three pots of Turkish coffe at a local shop and a free afternoon.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By C.G. Spicer on 6 Nov. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
very good, very fast
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 24 reviews
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
The second part of the Danzig Trilogy holds up just as well 12 Jun. 2000
By Robert Beveridge - Published on
Format: Paperback
I first read Cat and Mouse without the benefit of having read The Tin Drum beforehand, and I missed a lot. Cat and Mouse is the second book in Grass' Danzig Trilogy, three books that look at life in Danzig under the Nazi regime from three different points of view (the tales are told concurrently, and time can be fixed by seeing the same event from different points of view; for example, the picnic taken by the jazz trio and Schmuh in Book III of The Tin Drum shows up towards the end of Cat and Mouse, and Matern, one of the main characters of Dog Years, shows up in The Onion Cellar, where Oskar's jazz band is retained, in The Tin Drum).

Cat and Mouse is actually a novella, originally a part of Dog Years that broke off and took on a life of its own; on the surface it is the tale of Joachim Mahlke, a high school student with a protruding adam's apple (the Mouse of the title), and his fascination with a sunken Polish minesweeper after he learns to swim at the age of thirteen. It is also the story of Pilenz, the narrator and Mahlke's best friend. The two spend their high school years in wartime Poland, reacting to various things, and that's about as much plot as this little slice of life needs.

The interesting thing about Cat and Mouse is its complete difference in tone from the other two novels. Both The Tin Drum and (what I've read so far of) Dog Years have the same high-pitched, almost hysterical humor combined with a profound sense of teleology (not surprising given the apocalyptic nature of life in Danzig under the Nazis); Grass attempts to confront the horror with over-the-top slapstick, because only through that kind of comparison is it possible to make the reader understand. But while Cat and Mouse has its moments of the same kind of ribald humor, it is more dignified, in a sense, and closer to reality; enough so, at least, that when the book reaches its inevitable climax and denoument, one feels more genuine, or more human, reactions to the fates of Pilenz and Mahlke than one does to Oskar, the hero of The Tin Drum. Perhaps that is why it was segmented off from Dog Years; perhaps there was another reason. Whatever the case, it stands on its own and as an integral part of Grass' magnum opus.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Why is it I always end up liking books I read in school? 28 Nov. 2001
By Thomas Edgar - Published on
Format: Paperback
Okay, I'll admit freely: "Katz und Maus" was required reading in school, which obviously biased me against it immediately. What's worse, it was German postwar literature, which never fails to be depressing and downbeat. I knew I was in for a greuling read.
And then, suddenly, it wasn't. In fact, I started liking it from the first line, and carried on until the end, which I'd give away if I said wasn't an end, so I'll let you read it yourself.
The story is complicated and non-linear. It is told from a first person narrative, the exact reliability of which is consatantly brought into question, either by the fog of the years or deliberate misconstruction due to feelings of guilt, the narrator never seems too sure about what happened, often offering several different versions of the same story at the same time, and even going so far as to admit his own fictitiousness. The story that serves as a Leitmotiv, as well as title of the book, is the cat that attacked Mahlke's adam's apple, and exactly how it got there.
What I found most striking about the book on first glance was the descriptions of the places and characters that the novella is centered on. At the same time, you have a feeling that it's merely a part of a greater whole. It fits in with the other two books in the so-called Danzig Trilogy seamlessly, yet still sets itself apart.
I have another confession to make: I attend a German high school, and so I read it in German. In my opinion, though what I've read of the excerpts seems like a decent translation, Günter Grass is an author who uses the German language to its full extent, emplying every manner of grammatical and syntactical tricks to underline the story. These, unfotunately, are completely lost in the translation. If you understand German decently, I would strongly encourage you to seek out an original language text.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Clever, moving, insightful; instantly a classic 1 July 2000
By Yaumo Gaucho - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a sensitively written tale of Joachim Mahlke and his "mouse" (that up-and-down-bobbing Adam's apple of his) -- through the eyes of an unreliable narrator reminiscing about his youth, and life, and morals, and how ordinary, decent people, some of them children, lived in Hitler's Germany. Realistic, telling, bittersweet. Lots of little chases and reflections: hence cat and mouse. Often uproariously funny, sometimes with a deeper message, sometimes just for humor.
Cat and Mouse is the most purely enjoyable book I've read in a long time. Perhaps not the most challenging to read (that's not always a bad thing), but definitely the most enjoyable.
There's lots of subsurface musing about war and the morality of killing... for an American, it reminds one of the collective guilt brought about by Vietnam. (But it is never in-your-face war-musings a la Tim O'Brien or anyone like that.) Yes, these teenage boys joined the Hitler Youth and aspired to shoot at British airplanes; but can we blame them? And can they morally redeem themselves decades later -- and need they?
A side point: I was shocked by one frequent error among reviewers here. How can people read this book and think that it is set in Poland! Its German setting is perhaps its most salient feature. It is set in what was then Germany, although that part of Germany became Poland after WW2.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Growing Up in Nazi Germany 16 Aug. 2000
By Manuel Haas - Published on
Format: Paperback
Joachim Mahlke and his friend Plienz (who is the narrator of the story) grow up in wartime Danzig, the free city disputed between Germany and Poland over which World War II started. Maybe the most striking feature of the novella is that it shows how natural the war and Nazi rule appear to those adolescents, simply because it is the only world they know.
The "Great" Joachim Mahlke is the dubious hero of the story. His most striking feature is his huge Adam's apple, about which he feels highly self-conscious. Maybe he is trying so hard to be a hero to make the others forget his deformity? Is that what makes him dive into the sunken Polish minesweeper to retrieve all kinds of objects? Is that why he steals an Iron Cross from a war hero? (The Iron Cross is a medal worn around the neck, so that it would hide Mahlke's Adam's apple). And is it finally, the reason why Mahlke is so keen on joining the army himself? After a short time he has destroyed so many Russian tanks that he is awarded the Iron Cross himself...
This summary will give you only a faint idea of the book, for it cannot encapsulate the feeling of summer and of being young which Grass manages to include - without denying the dreadful things happening at the very same time. In a book of less than 200 pages Grass resurrects the Danzig of his own youth. If you haven't read any Grass yet, start at this one; it is perfect.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Guenter Grass's Cat and Mouse is the one to read 6 Aug. 1998
By - Published on
Format: Paperback
It is true that Grass is always a sweet read and this book is no exception. Do not be confused by the incorrect synopsis which is about a cheap American thriller. Grass has not lowed his high standards. He has written a moving, informative tale of youth in war-time Poland. The story is short, but powerful. Well worth a couple hours of your time.
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