Saturday, 25 April 2020

Writing the Tin Drum

When I said to Bruno, "Oh, Bruno, would you buy me a ream of virgin paper?" he looked up at the ceiling ... and replied, "You mean white paper, Herr Oskar."  I stuck with the word virgin and told Bruno to ask for it that way at the shop. When he returned later that afternoon with the package, he seemed a Bruno in thought. ... "That word you recommended was right. I asked for virgin paper and the salesgirl blushed red before she gave me what I wanted."   
Fearing a long conversation about salesgirls in stationery shops, I regretted having emphasised the paper's innocence by calling it a virgin, and said nothing, waited till Bruno had left the room. Only then did I open the package with the five hundred sheets of paper.    
I lifted the resilient stack for a moment and tested its weight. Then I counted off ten sheets and stored the rest in my bedside table. I found the fountain pen by my photo album in the drawer: it's full, it won't fail for lack of ink; how shall I begin?

Gunter Grass, The Tin Drum, first published in 1959.

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