Norman Mailer defends Gunter Grass's silence





Norman Mailer speaking on Wednesday night at the New York Public Library with the Nobel Prize-winner Günter Grass, said, “This may well be one of the very last times I appear in public; old age is catching up with me.” Still, despite walking with two canes and complaining that he couldn’t hear or see well, Mr. Mailer, 84, was as feisty and funny as ever. He defended Mr. Grass, who has been attacked for what critics say is the belated acknowledgment in his new memoir, “Peeling the Onion,” that he served for a few months in the Waffen-SS as a teenager. Mr. Grass, best known for his novel “The Tin Drum,” has unflinchingly demanded that Germans account for Nazi atrocities. Mr. Mailer said he searched his own life to figure out why Mr. Grass didn’t speak about his experience earlier. “What have I held onto for so long?” he asked, and then answered: stabbing his second wife, Adele, in 1960. “It’s something I’ll probably never write about,” he said. “I’ve never felt ready to write about it.” Unless you can “write something that’s brilliant,” he added, you’re better off not writing about it at all. Mr. Grass, who said his SS experience was publicized in the 1960s, added that he always knew he would write about this period but that “I was going to write about it when I was ready.”

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