A Talk with Günter Grass

A Talk with Günter Grass

MH: Let me raise a question, Günter—partly in terms of your critique of some aspects of the West German Ostpolitik—about the question of detente and of freedom in the Soviet Union. The three of us obviously are in favor of both—detente, and freedom in the Soviet Union; of utilizing whatever bargaining position the Western nations have in trying to maximize the right of persons in the Soviet Union to emigrate, the right of dissent, etc.

My question is, where do we draw the line? Is there a point at which you have to choose between the two? I think, for now, we can be in favor of both—because I don’t think we have pushed the Russians at all as far as they should and can be pushed on these issues. But do you think there comes a point when one may have to make a choice between detente and peace—and internal dissent, the right to emigrate, etc.?

GG: I would like to go back a little bit in time. During the period of the Cold War, both sides were treating each other as enemies. And Ithink the concept of detente means seeing the other side perhaps merely as an opponent, and not as an enemy. Now everywhere in Europe people are saying, The Cold War is over, let’s be friends. The big businessmen are saying, Let’s do business between Western private capitalism and Eastern state capitalism.