ibnlive » Books » Authors

Apr 09, 2012 at 03:43pm IST

Full Text: Guenter Grass' poem 'What Must Be Said'

Israel has declared Guenter Grass persona non grata, deepening a spat with the Nobel-winning author over a poem that deeply criticises the Jewish state and suggests it is as much a danger as Iran.

The dispute with Grass, who only late in life admitted to a Nazi past, has drawn new attention to strains in Germany's complicated relationship with the Jewish state - and also focused unwelcome light on Israel's own secretive nuclear program.

In a poem called What Must Be Said, Grass, 84, criticised what he described as Western hypocrisy over Israel's nuclear program and labelled the country a threat to "already fragile world peace" over its belligerent stance on Iran.

Read Guenter Grass' poem 'What Must Be Said'

Read the unofficial translation of Guenter Grass' poem, 'What Must Be Said.'

Here is an unofficial translation of Guenter Grass' poem, 'What Must Be Said.'

Why do I stay silent, conceal for too long

What is obvious and has been

Practiced in war games, at the end of which we as survivors

Are at best footnotes.

It is the alleged right to the first strike

That could annihilate the Iranian people--

Subjugated by a loud-mouth

And guided to organized jubilation--

Because in their sphere of power,

It is suspected, a nuclear bomb is being built.

Yet why do I forbid myself

To name that other country

In which, for years, even if secretly,

There has been a growing nuclear potential at hand

But beyond control, because not accessible to inspections?

The universal concealment of these facts,

To which my silence subordinated itself,

I sense as an incriminating lie

And coercion--the punishment is promised

As soon as it is ignored;

The verdict of "anti-Semitism" is familiar.

Now, though, because in my country

Which time and again has sought and confronted

Its very own crimes

That is without comparison

In turn on a purely commercial basis, if also

With nimble lips calling it a reparation, declares

A further U-boat should be delivered to Israel,

Whose specialty consists of guiding all-destroying warheads to where the existence

Of a single atomic bomb is unproven,

But fear wishes to be of conclusive evidence,

I say what must be said.

But why have I stayed silent until now?

Because I thought my origin,

Afflicted by a stain never to be expunged

Forbade this fact as pronounced truth

To be told to the nation of Israel, to which I am bound

And wish to stay bound.

Why do I say only now,

Aged and with my last ink,

The nuclear power Israel endangers

The already fragile world peace?

Because it must be said

What even tomorrow may be too late to say;

Also because we--as Germans burdened enough--

Could become suppliers to a crime

That is foreseeable, wherefore our complicity

Could not be redeemed through any of the usual excuses.

And granted: I am silent no longer

Because I am tired of the West's hypocrisy;

In addition to which it is to be hoped

That this will free many from silence,

Appeal to the perpetrator of the recognizable danger

To renounce violence and

Likewise insist

That an unhindered and permanent control

Of the Israeli nuclear potential

And the Iranian nuclear sites

Be authorized through an international agency

By the governments of both countries.

Only this way are all, the Israelis and Palestinians,

Even more, all people, that in this

Region occupied by mania

Live cheek by jowl among enemies,

And also us, to be helped.

  • 4
  • 0
  • 0

Previous Comments

Latest