Guenter Grass “The Box”

Guenter Grass "The Box"After the revelations that Guenter Grass (sorry for the lack of umlaut. I  can’t figure out how to get the thing in there) participated in the Waffen SS, I was among those, angry and betrayed who swore I wouldn’t read him again.  That lasted all of five years.

I couldn’t help myself when I saw The Box: Tales from the Darkroom at my library.  I haven’t finished the book yet, and I’m already looking forward to reading it again.  The author imagines his eight children gathering at various times and in different grouping to discuss him, his presence and his absence in their lives. The discussions rarely stray far from family friend Maria and her mysterious Agfa box camera.  The adult children debate the merits of the camera and Maria’s darkroom work, but all agree Maria’s camera showed them worlds and wishes normally hidden.

The imaginative premise blurs the line between reality and fiction. An old-fashioned camera is a perfect metaphor. We tend to think of true and false, real and fiction as absolutes as stark as black and white.  However, anyone who ever dabbled in black and white photography knows, the artistry reveals itself in the grays.