In response to:
Casting Out Demons from the June 3, 1965 issue
To the Editors:
I am puzzled by one sentence in D. J. Enright’s very interesting review of Dog Years [NYR, June 3] (which we will be publishing in November). Of the nine SA youths who knock out Amsel’s teeth, “the ninth (it is plain to the reader, though not to Matern) is Matern.” As it stands, this seems sheer nonsense. If on the other hand the first “Matern” is a slip of the pen for “Amsel,” this surely is untrue also: what does Amsel’s “Is it you? Si ti uoy?” mean if not “Et tu, Brute?”
Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd.
D.J Enright replies:
That the ninth assailant is Matern is plain to the reader (and of course to Amsel). In Matern’s memory, however, the incident is invested with uncertainty, to say the least. “Were there eight or nine muffled figures?” And, “I loved him…We Materns have always protected the weak. But the others were stronger, and I could only look on helplessly.” How could Matern set out to avenge Amsel if it were “plain” to him that he had once been a Nazi thug himself? Grass deals adroitly with this defensive, self-induced “uncertainty” about the German past—“to remember is to select”—and I am sorry that my allusion to it here should be, despite explicit discussion of the phenomenon elsewhere in the review, merely cryptic.
July 15, 1965