Books: Sinking Ship THE RAT by Gunter Grass

Translated by Ralph Manheim Harcourt Brace Jovanovich 371 pages; $17.95

Ever since his first novel, The Tin Drum, exploded into international bestsellerdom in 1963, Gunter Grass has pursued two parallel careers. He continued to write fiction (Dog Years, Local Anaesthetic, The Flounder), as well as plays and poetry, that enhanced his worldwide reputation. He also plunged energetically into politics, working on behalf of West Germany's Social Democratic Party, speaking out against the superpower arms race, and hectoring with particular fervor the Western democracies. Planners of literary conferences learned that one sure way to garner attention was to snare Grass as a participant. He could, at the very least, be counted on...