February Books 1) Peeling the Onion, by Günter Grass
A fascinating autobiography - though in fact it covers only the years from the outbreak of the second world war, in the late 1930s, to Grass's first marriage 20 years later. I don't think you can read it without also reading or having read The Tin Drum, which has a lot of autobiographical elements in it, here carefully untangled and explained. Grass of course did not have the option of not growing up; he ended up rapidly inducted into the SS as the Eastern Front crumbled, hints at being interned together with the future Pope Benedict XVI, and was cast adrift in the Rhineland like so many other easterners after the war ended, finding his way to literature through a sculpture career which began with making tombstones. Often horrifying, at times sexy and funny, it's not quite the book I expected but I think it is a hugely important contribution to understanding how Germany has become the sort of country it is now from the country it once was. The book's revelation that Grass had been in the SS was apparently news when it came out, though this basically illustrates the whole problem of Vergangenheitsbewältigung. Strongly recommended.