“Your Story is now My Story”: The Ethics of Narration in Grass and Sebald

Peter Morgan


Aspects of the “ethics of representation” are explored with reference to W.G. Sebald’s critique of Günter Grass and West German literature in Luftkrieg und Literatur (On the Natural History of Destruction) and his early literary essays. Sebald takes Grass to task for failing to tell the story of the Danzig Jews as though it were his own story, and for inventing the figure of Hermann Ott, the German who does not betray the Jews, in Aus dem Tagebuch einer Schnecke (From the Diary of a Snail, 1972). Sebald’s critique of Grass is examined with reference to Avishai Margalit’s philosophical essay, The Ethics of Memory, and questions are raised regarding the ethics of representation in the work of both Sebald and Grass. (PM)