Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The connection between 1647 and 1947 is a major theme of The Meeting at Telgte. The fictitious meeting of 1647 is the counterpart of a real meeting of German poets and writers known as Gruppe 47. They met in 1947, at the end of the most devastating war in modern history. As was the case in 1647, the community of concerned German writers was faced with the repair of the language, this time after twelve years of Nazi barbarism and propaganda. As in 1647, the German writers strove to reassert the humane values of enlightenment, tolerance, and humanism. Grass dedicated The Meeting at Telgte to commemorate the seventieth birthday of Hans Werner Richter, the founder of Gruppe 47. Grass was to join the group as a young writer and was given its literary prize for his first great novel, The Tin Drum.

As with all of his novels, Grass designed the book jacket of The Meeting at Telgte. As a reminder of Baroque symbolism, it depicts a writer’s hand holding a frayed goose-quill pen. The hand is rising triumphantly like a phoenix from the rubble below, symbolizing the struggle of the writer to give meaning and to create values for his age even in the aftermath of the worst war and destruction.

The parallels between past and present may apply to at least two of the characters in the novel. Simon Dach is reminiscent of Hans Werner Richter, while Christoffel Gelnhausen, the self-educated picaresque novelist and lover of...

(The entire section is 498 words.)