(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Compared to the longer, more monumental works of Günter Grass, The Meeting at Telgte is a short novel. It is the story of a fictional 1647 meeting of major figures of the German literary world who actually existed. Poets, prose writers, preachers, musicians, and publishers travel at considerable risk through a Germany ravaged by the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). This war was the most destructive in German history prior to World War II. By 1647, the year of the meeting, peace was at hand, but much of Germany was decimated, fragmented, and dominated by a caste of authoritarian princes and nobles. Furthermore, the German language had been corrupted by the invading armies of the European powers and was in danger of descending into hideous jargon.

The original goal of these German intellectuals was to meet in Osnabruck, a site of peace negotiations between the Catholic and Protestant European powers and the rival princes of Germany who had fought the German emperor to a standstill. Since Osnabruck remained occupied by the Swedes, however, the writers hold their conclave in the small town of Telgte, a site of pilgrimage midway between Osnabruck and Munster, the two cities in which the Peace Conference of Westphalia will be held.

The noble goal of the writers is to revive, purify, and strengthen the last remaining bond of the German nation, its language and literature. They also aspire to influence the politicians by issuing a manifesto...

(The entire section is 512 words.)