The narrator, probably Günter Grass himself, born in 1927 in Danzig. The first-person narrator is on a sponsored lecture tour of China and India with his wife, Ute. A sympathetic observer, he nevertheless retains his commitment to German affairs and to the coming elections. The crowds in Shanghai lead him to imagine a grotesque world in which the Germans, in danger of dying out according to alarmist, patriotic politicians at home, would be as numerous as the Chinese. He finds a parallel between the stultification of China through the cultural revolution and that of Germany through Nazi ideology. He imagines his own situation if he had been born ten years earlier and had been active in the Nazi era. These speculations and others of their kind lead to the narrator conceiving the idea for a book or film to be called Headbirths—a reference to Zeus—and to be prepared with the help of film director Volker Schlöndorff. The author duly presents his characters but constantly returns to his own doings and preoccupations, including the West German elections with the politician Franz Joseph Strauss and the nuclear power plant near Broksdorf. These matters preoccupy characters Harm and Dörte Peters. The author also refers to personal affairs, such as the death of a fellow writer. Without doubt, the narrator tends to lose the thread, unlike Ute, who knits a scarf all the way through Asia.
Harm Peters (PEE-tehrs), a high school teacher from Itzehoe, Germany, born in 1945. He is Dörte’s husband. He has taken part in the student movements of the 1960’s, is an active member of his local socialist party,...
(The entire section is 699 words.)