Die Rattin very overtly invites interpretation as an apocalyptic text, prophesying, with apparent gloomy relish. a scenario of ultimate and inevitable disaster. Readers who like their message this neat, however, have tended to reject Die Rattin (1 986) for essentially the same reason they already rejected Der Butt nine years earlier: Grass, for all his obvious good intentions, so the argument goes, has in both cases produced monstrous farragos of ineffectual satire which eventually drown in their own diffuseness and narrative self-indulgence, failing signally in the process to achieve their ostensible aim. A more appropriate and more productive reading of Die Rattin, however, is to locate the central emphasis on prophecy as process rather than prophylaxis, question rather than answer, exploratory interrogation rather than authoritative assertion. The plot, in this reading, essentially constitutes an unresolved narrative duel. a contest of stories, worlds, and realities, as the rat's monolithic No is relativized and held uneasily at bay by the narrator's feinting, shifting, questionable efforts at saying Yes. The resulting balance of conflicting narrative hypotheses and possible worlds illustrates prophecy as purely deictic, apocalypse as purely revelatory, without any implied confidence in its own power to prevent or correct human folly.



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