The Tin Drum

Günter Grass, New translation by Breon Mitchell
Harvill Secker

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Günter Grass’ gloriously unforgettable novel, The Tin Drum, Breon Mitchell presents us with a new translation of this classic. Mitchell’s meticulously crafted translation captures the full exuberance of Grass’ writing, pounding along the non-linear path of the narrator’s life story with all the rhythm of the drumbeats that he uses to recount it. Oskar, more astute than the adults around him, stunts his growth at the age of three, and using the twin weapons of his drum and his glass-shattering voice, proceeds to beat his way through Nazi Germany.

Told retrospectively from Oskar’s ward in a mental institution, where he uses his drum to recall lost memories, Grass’ novel weaves its way between the past and the present and the narrative is littered with wry observations of human deception. Perhaps the greatest success of Mitchell’s translation is his preservation of Grass’ subtle humour; he carefully retains the author’s playful manipulation of language and the tight choreography of his words makes this a hugely enjoyable read.

Bryony Byrne