You are on page 1of 3

[GnterGrass'spoemWasgesagtwerdenmuss,publishedintheSddeutschenZeitungonApril4,2012,was

greetedintheinternationalmediawithhowlsofexecration.Ashehadanticipatedinhisfourthverseparagraph,
Grasswaswidelydenouncedasanantisemiteandalsoasapoliticalnafwithadubiouspoliticalpastofhis
own,andapoeticincompetent.
Ithought,incontrast,thatGrass'stextwascourageous,carefullynuanced,andmoving.Ithoughthewas
quiterighttodrawattentiontotheshamefulcomplicityofhisowncountryinbuildingupIsrael'sstockof
nuclearweaponsanddeliverysystems,andrightaswelltodenouncethehypocrisyoftheWest,andtonotethat
IsraeliandAmericanthreatsofnuclearattacksonIranhavebeenbasedonnomorethansuspicionthatIran
mightbedevelopinganuclearweapon.
NowhereamongtheoutcriespromptedbythistextdidIseeanyacknowledgmentthatGrass'sreputation
asawriterhadincludedearlyinternationalrecognitionofhistalentsasapoet(translationsofaselectionof
poemsfromhisfirstthreecollectionsofversewerepublishedinthemid1960sinthePenguinModernEuropean
Poetsseries).
ManyofthejournalistswhodenouncedGrass'spoemhadclearlynotreadit,andbyApril6theonly
EnglishtranslationavailablewasawretchederrorladenversionpublishedonthewebsiteofTheGuardian.
NicaMintzandItriedinourrenderingtoachievebothliteralaccuracyandasenseofthecadencesof
Grass's poem. Our version was published on April 7, 2012 at the websites of PULSE Media,
http://pulsemedia.org/2012/04/07/whatmustbesaid/, and of Mondoweiss. It was subsequently reproduced at
twentyfiveotherwebsites.]

[Index:GnterGrass,Israel,Iran]
[Date:April2012]

Whatmustbesaid

GnterGrass

WhyhaveIkeptsilent,silentfortoolong
overwhatisopenlyplayedout
inwargamesattheendofwhichwe
thesurvivorsareatbestfootnotes.
Itsthatclaimofarighttofirststrike
againstthosewhounderaloudmouthsthumb
arepushedintoorganizedcheering
astriketosnuffouttheIranianpeople
onsuspicionthatunderhisinfluence

anatombombsbeingbuilt.
ButwhydoIforbidmyself
tonamethatotherlandinwhich
foryearsalthoughkeptsecret
ausablenuclearcapabilityhasgrown
beyondallcontrol,because
noscrutinyisallowed.
Theuniversalsilencearoundthisfact,
underwhichmyownsilencelay,
Ifeelnowasaheavylie,
astrongconstraint,whichtodismiss
courtsforcefulpunishment:
theverdictofAntisemitismiswellknown.
Butnow,whenmyowncountry,
guiltyofprimalandunequalledcrimes
forwhichtimeandagainitmustbetasked
onceagain,inpurecommerce,
thoughwithquicklipswedeclareit
reparations,wantstosend
Israelyetanothersubmarine
onewhosespecialityistodeliver
warheadscapableofendingalllife
wheretheexistenceofevenone
nuclearweaponremainsunproven,
butwheresuspicionservesforproof
nowIsaywhatmustbesaid.
ButwhywasIsilentforsolong?
BecauseIthoughtmyorigin,
markedwithanineradicablestain,
forbadementionofthisfact
asdefinitetruthaboutIsrael,acountry
towhichIamandwillremainattached.
WhyisitonlynowIsay,
inoldage,withmylastdropofink,
thatIsraelsnuclearpowerendangers
analreadyfragileworldpeace?
Becausewhatbytomorrowmightbe
toolate,mustbespokennow,
andbecauseweasGermans,already

burdenedenoughcouldbecome
enablersofacrime,foreseeableandtherefore
nottobeeradicated
withanyoftheusualexcuses.
Andadmittedly:Imsilentnomore
becauseIvehaditwiththeWestshypocrisy
andonecanhopethatmanyotherstoo
mayfreethemselvesfromsilence,
challengetheinstigatorofknowndanger
toabstainfromviolence,
andatthesametimedemand
apermanentandunrestrainedcontrol
ofIsraelsatomicpower
andIraniannuclearplants
byaninternationalauthority
acceptedbybothgovernments.
Onlythuscanonegivehelp
toIsraelisandPalestiniansstillmore,
allthepeoples,neighbourenemies
livinginthisregionoccupiedbymadness
andfinally,toourselvesaswell.

WasgesagtwerdenmusspublishedinSddeutschenZeitung(4April2012)
TranslationbyMichaelKeeferandNicaMintz