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The 20th Century on Trial: Gunter Grass by Andrew O'Hagan

The 20th Century on Trial: Gunter Grass

by Andrew O'Hagan

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Running Time
1 Hr. 19 Min.
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The New York Public Library presents The 20th Century on Trial with Gunter Grass. This portion of the event includes Gunter Grass in conversation with Andrew O'Hagan followed by a Q&A session with Gunter Grass and Norman Mailer.

Born in the 1920s, Gunter Grass and Norman Mailer went on to become grand men of letters. They witnessed the 20th century at close quarters. At the center of each writer's consciousness is the role of their respective countries in World War II and the legacy of violence and guilt that created the Cold War. Yet as stylists these two novelists appeared to internalize the great forces of their times: the appeal of totalitarianism and the cult of celebrity, the struggle for national definition and the psychology of sex.

Mailer and Grass set out to create revolutions in the consciousness of their times, and now might be the moment to ask how the 20th century itself emerges from their work. What was that century? What would they write for its epitaph? Nobel Prize-Winner Gunter Grass's memoir Peeling the Onion takes him back to his wartime childhood and adolescence - it is a searing book that provides evidence on behalf of the self-accusing. Norman Mailer's latest novel, The Castle in the Forest, is his take on Hitler's own youth. These two great writers have come full circle, to the same place and time, and their creativity puts the 20th century itself on trial.

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