Günter Grass Takes On Facebook: “Someone Who Has 500 Friends, Has No Friends.”

Inci­sive social crit­ic, nov­el­ist, poet, sculp­tor, and inspi­ra­tion to such tren­chant fab­u­lists as John Irv­ing and Salman Rushdie, Ger­man writer Gün­ter Grass passed away this week with a well-defined lega­cy as “his country’s moral con­science.” Win­ner of the Nobel Prize in 1999, the author did not shy away from con­tro­ver­sial polit­i­cal stances—despite his own once-hid­den past as a teenage mem­ber of the Hitler Youth and Waf­fen-SS. In 2012, Grass caused an inter­na­tion­al stir with the pub­li­ca­tion of his poem “What Must Be Said,” a fierce cri­tique of Israel’s mil­i­tarism. The poem drew some rather pre­dictable charges, and its pub­li­ca­tion, wrote Der Spiegel, broached what many con­sid­ered a taboo sub­ject. The inci­dent rep­re­sents only one of Grass’s many pub­lic state­ments, woven through­out his art and life, against nation­al­ism and war.

Which brings us to the video inter­view above from 2013. While not exact­ly address­ing a mat­ter of dire geopo­lit­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance, Grass nonethe­less levies his char­ac­ter­is­tic crit­i­cal wit against a cor­po­rate enti­ty that threat­ens to swal­low the globe, vir­tu­al­ly—Face­book. Remark­ing on his chil­dren and grandchildren’s expe­ri­ence with the social net­work, Grass says he told one of them, “Some­one who has 500 friends, has no friends.” It’s some­thing of a famil­iar sen­ti­ment by now—we’ve all read numer­ous think-pieces more or less say­ing the same thing. But Grass goes on to define the val­ue of what he calls “direct expe­ri­ences” in spe­cif­ic terms—with the admis­sion that he feels like “a dinosaur” for writ­ing his man­u­scripts by hand and typ­ing them on an old Olivet­ti type­writer.

The idea of own­ing a mobile phone and being acces­si­ble at all times—and as I know now, under sur­veil­lance, is abhor­rent to me. With the lat­est find­ings in mind, it sur­pris­es me—that mil­lions of peo­ple do not dis­tance them­selves from Face­book and all that—and say “I want no part of it.”

Grass’ aver­sion to Facebook—and the online world in general—isn’t strict­ly polit­i­cal, but lit­er­ary as well. He acknowl­edges the ease and speed of the inter­net as a research tool, and yet… “lit­er­a­ture… You can’t speed it up when you work with it. If you do, you do so at the expense of qual­i­ty.” To hear more from Grass about the writ­ing process and his atti­tudes toward lit­er­a­ture and activism, read his inter­view in the Paris Review.

via Bib­liokept

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Prob­lem with Face­book: “It’s Keep­ing Things From You”

Stephen Hawk­ing Starts Post­ing on Face­book: Join His Quest to Explain What Makes the Uni­verse Exist

Wittgen­stein Day-by-Day: Face­book Page Tracks the Philosopher’s Wartime Expe­ri­ence 100 Years Ago

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (3)
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  • CG says:

    He was a Nazi. Who cares what he thinks? If he was the exem­plar of Ger­man con­science, then Ger­many did­n’t learn a thing from its past mis­takes.

  • Miguel says:

    Yeah… he was a Nazi. You should read him before give us your super-opinon.

  • S.R.Haralds says:

    Gün­ther Grass´ poem “What must be said” was long over­due. I have also writ­ten a poem about the Jews in Pales­tine, called “Pales­tine”. You can find it on my Face­book: Son­ja R.Haralds.
    What the Jews are doing in Pales­tine is a 60 year long geno­cide of the Pales­tini­ans !!! How can the world watch it and do noth­ing to stop it ? These are crimes against human­i­ty, and Ger­many is tak­ing part in it by pro­vid­ing the Jews with mon­ey and mis­siles!! They may call it anti-semi­tism or what­ev­er, but the facts are star­ing every­one in the face. And so Gün­ther Grass made it vis­i­ble for the whole world to see, praise the LORD.

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