Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Simon Dach

Simon Dach (dahkh), a professor of poetry in Königsberg (Germany) and an important poet in his own right. He organizes the meeting of poets in 1647, originally to be held in Osnabrück but forced to be held in the small village of Telgte because Osnabrück is full of soldiers. Dach, a moderate but decisive man, has decided to gather German poets from all over Europe to hold a disputation and conference. In reality, this meeting never took place. The novel commemorates the founding of the postwar German literary group, Group 47. Dach represents the founder of Group 47, Hans Werner Richter.

Christoffel Gelnhausen

Christoffel Gelnhausen (gehln-HOW-zehn), who is modeled after German satirist Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen, who wrote the famous picaresque novel Simplicissimus (1668). In the novel, Gelnhausen (taking his name from the town where Grimmelshausen was born) is an imperial officer who helps the gathered poets move to Telgte and who considers himself somewhat of a poet and thinker. He is portrayed as a bit of a buffoon and a windbag.

Heinrich Albert

Heinrich Albert (HIN-rihkh), a composer and organist, friend of Simon Dach, and leading figure in the circle of poets in Königsberg. He arrives at Telgte with his friend, Heinrich Schütz, who is considered the best church composer of his time....

(The entire section is 550 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Although the meeting at Telgte so vividly described by Grass never took place, the characters of the novel actually existed and made some important efforts to salvage German language, literature, and culture. The twenty major and minor characters represent a blend of the realistic and fantastic typical of Grass. The identity of the narrator is never revealed. He is omniscient; he evidences a great knowledge of seventeenth century German Baroque literature and a familiarity with the writers themselves. He even knows the details of their physical appearance. The narrator uses indirect statements to distance himself from the story. This is the technique used in Die Blechtrommel (1959; The Tin Drum, 1961), Grass’s picaresque novel about World War II. Finally, the narrator is clearly writing from the perspective of the present: He begins the book by saying that yesterday will be what tomorrow has been. Thus, the narrator’s role is in part to link the seventeenth with the twentieth century.

The rest of the characters are a collection of most of the major German literary and cultural figures of the seventeenth century. They represent a great variety of regions, ages, temperaments, and literary forms. Some are self-made men of action such as the soldier Gelnhausen and the civil servant Georg Rudolf Weckherlin, who has left Germany for London to become John Milton’s predecessor as Latin secretary under the British Puritan Commonwealth. The characters include dour preachers and hymn writers, such as Paul Gerhardt and Johann Rist, and the satirists Johann Michel Moscherosch and Friedrich von Logau. Philipp von Zesen represents the literary theorists and Andreas Gryphius is present as the greatest German dramatist of the seventeenth century. The great and aging composer of the first German opera and of fine...

(The entire section is 749 words.)