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German Writer Gets Banned from Israel for Writing (probably really bad) Poetry

April 9, 2012


Jerusalem, Dome of the Rock Deutsch: Jerusalem...

It's not getting banned for my really bad poetry that keeps me from visiting; it's my lack of money. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The consequences of writing can be fascinating sometimes.  People get fired from jobs, protested against, and occasionally even killed for what they write.  But banned from a country? 

A German writer/poet (some old guy named Guenter Grass) has been banned from Israel for publishing a poem that criticizes Israeli nuclear weapons policy.  Others can argue about Israel’s possible response to possible Iranian nuclear power/weapons, but that’s not my point.  This is about getting banned from a country for something you write. 

Here in the United States, we don’t ban people who say/write bad things about our country.  If we did, President Obama would have been banned years ago. 

But Israel is a different country and might have different laws regarding freedom of speech and political expression.  But even so, banning a poet for his poetry might be a bit excessive. 

For one thing, he’s a writer/poet.  I learned long ago not to try to figure out what poetry means because poems are supposed to use figurative language with layers upon layers of meaning.  If this writer is any good, his poem is not even really talking about Israel and Iran: he’s talking about some deeper issue about the state of humanity, and the rest of us are too stupid to figure it out. 

If he’s really talking about Israel and Iran, then he’s not really a poet. 

Secondly, he’s an old man.  One of the benefits of being an old man is that you can say what you want and nobody really pays attention.  Israel should just nod politely and give the old man a glass of refreshing lemonade (in a metaphorical way).   By banning the old German writer, they made him relevant again, which will only encourage him to compose more stuff. 

Finally, how did this German guy live to be so old?  Poets are known for dying by self-inflicted methods.  The burdens of life can be monumental to the average poet, but this old German guy served in the SS during World War II (he probably didn’t have a choice), so if he really cares about the human condition (as poets are supposed to), then he should really be burdened with overwhelming guilt.  I’m not suggesting that he should have taken matters into his own hands (I’m glad that he hasn’t); I’m just surprised that he hasn’t.

Then again, if he’s lived this long , either he’s not really a poet or he’s not a very good poet.  I’m in no position to judge whether he’s a decent poet or not because I can’t read German and my poetry stinks.


Communication is a two-way street.  The writer writes, and the readers respond.  Sometimes it’s best if the readers don’t respond (it happens to me all the time).  If Israeli politicians really wanted to hurt this German guy, they would have pretended that his poetry doesn’t matter anymore.

  1. Impressive. At first I thought it was a joke, but as I read on I realized you really don’t have a clue as to who this “old German guy” is. If you’re going to write about it, at least make an effort to understand why this made the news, or don’t, but you’re impressively ignorant dude.
    Try looking up “Günter Grass”, and if that doesn’t help, ask someone to explain to you what the Nobel Prize, the idea behind it and what it takes to be awarded one in literature. Yes, you’ve got a right to your opinion, but self-congratulatory ignorance is just so sad.

    • I know what you mean. I get called stuff like “impressively ignorant dude” every once in a while (but not that often). You should have seen what one guy called me when I wrote a negative review of 11-22-63 by Stephen King. The insult was funny, but he used way too much profanity, so I couldn’t leave it on the site. I think you might be taking my “ignorance” too seriously, but I understand.

      • You’re right.

        I apologize for calling you ignorant and for the self righteous tone of my comment; you’re the better man here for taking things in a more balanced and agreeable way.

        I could have pointed out the perceived importance of Günter Grass in a more amiable, and therefore constructive, manner. Sorry.

  2. britneyana permalink

    That is terrible. You never think how we take freedom of speech for granted

    • True. But I’m not sure that the old German writer actually wanted to go to Israel, so maybe the ban doesn’t matter all that much beyond the symbolism.

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