Books: Hesitation Waltz

FROM THE DIARY OF A SNAIL

by GUNTER GRASS

310 pages. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. $7.95.

One drizzly March day in 1969, Germany's most powerful novelist, Günter Grass (The Tin Drum, Local Anaesthetic), abandoned his beloved stand-up writing desk, his charming dancer-wife Anna and his four children (ages four to eleven)—for what? That least seductive of modern quests: politics. A barely tolerable necessity if one is running for office, electioneering in Grass's case was pure altruism. He was doing it on behalf of West German Chancellor Willy Brandt.

The author campaigned across West Germany (31,000 bouncy kilometers in a Volkswagen bus) and "talktalktalked" for...

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