If you have been for a stroll along the waterfront in Sonderborg you have probably come by the statue “Butt Im Griff” by Günter Grass – here’s a story of the sculpture and the man who created it.
Günter Grass is a German-Kashubian Nobel Prize winner in literature and is widely regarded as Germany’s most famous living writer. Apart from being a novelist he is also a poet, playwright, illustrator, graphic artist and, as we can experience in Sonderborg, a sculptor.
His background and life story is remarkable to say the least. He was born in the Free City of Danzig (Gdansk) in ’27 and as a 17 year old Nazi sympathizer served in Waffen SS during the last years of WW2 where he got wounded and ended up in an American prisoner of war camp. His native Danzig was captured by the Soviet Army and later annexed by Poland, which expelled its German population. So Grass could not return home and found refuge in West Germany.
During the revolution when the Berlin Wall and Iron Curtain came down around 1989 Grass opposed the unification of East and West Germany arguing that a unified Germany would become militant and threaten world peace.
In April of this year the 84-year old Grass can still cause controversy. He released a poem about Germany selling a submarine to Israel that enraged the Israelis so much that they have declared him a Persona Non Grata.
Grass works his way through a topic, story or theme by using different artforms over a number of years. He usually starts out working with a theme in graphic design, then moves on to sculptures and, finally, writing the story. That was also the case with the flounder where he first created engravings, then the sculpture was created and later he turned it into the novel The Flounder.
Grass explained the sculpture like this: “The talking fish is like a book. As a book the flounder keeps and tells the story. It gives information, advises and predicts the future. It creates discussions and is pugnacious itself.”
The sculpture was bought by the municipality of Sonderborg to go on the newly built promenade at the waterfront in 2004 and to reveal it the whole Danish royal family was in town. If you read Danish there is an entertaining article about the day with the crown prince hugging a grillbar owner and the royal ship not being able to pass Christian X bridge because too many people standing on it.