Günter Grass

GÜNTER GRASS, THE ART OF FICTION No. 124

Interviewed by Elizabeth Gaffney

 

The Paris Review

GRASS

My first book was a book of poetry and drawings. Invariably the first drafts of my poems combine drawings and verse, sometimes taking off from an image, sometimes from words. Then, when I was twenty-five years old and could afford to buy a typewriter, I preferred to type with my two-finger system. The first version of The Tin Drum was done just with the typewriter. Now I’m getting older and though I hear that many of my colleagues are writing with computers, I’ve gone back to writing the first draft by hand! The first version of The Rat is in a large book of unlined paper, which I got from my printer. When one of my books is about to be published I always ask for one blind copy with blank pages to use for the next manuscript. So, these days the first version is written by hand with drawings and then the second and the third are done on a typewriter. I have never finished a book without writing three versions. Usually there are four with many corrections.

INTERVIEWER

Does each version begin at alpha and proceed to omega?

GRASS

No. I write the first draft quickly. If there’s a hole, there’s a hole. The second version is generally very long, detailed, and complete. There are no more holes, but it’s a bit dry. In the third draft I try to regain the spontaneity of the first, and to retain what is essential from the second. This is very difficult.

INTERVIEWER

What is your daily schedule when you work?

GRASS

When I’m working on the first version, I write between five and seven pages a day. For the third version, three pages a day. It’s very slow.

INTERVIEWER

You do this in the morning or in the afternoon or at night? 

GRASS

Never, never at night. I don’t believe in writing at night because it comes too easily. When I read it in the morning it’s not good. I need daylight to begin. Between nine and ten o’clock I have a long breakfast with reading and music. After breakfast I work, and then take a break for coffee in the afternoon. I start again and finish at seven o’clock in the evening. 

INTERVIEWER

How do you know when a book is finished?

GRASS

When I am working on an epic-length book, the writing process is fairly long. It takes from four to five years to get through all the drafts. The book is done when I am exhausted.

http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/2191/the-art-of-fiction-no-124-gunter-grass

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