Günter Grass poem on Greece, austerity, translation

This video is about poverty in Greece.

A video which used to be on YouTube was called Families Crumble In Greece’s Economic Crisis. It used to say about itself:

Seventy-year-old Eletharias cannot afford to go the supermarket any more, so for the past few months he has started rummaging for food in dustbins.

He goes out in Athens at night so that no one sees. When Sky News met him, he was collecting onions from some wheelie bins.

“Since my pension was cut, I can’t buy food so I look through the garbage,” he said, “I can only pray that things get better.”

He is among an increasing number of pensioners who have slipped into desperate poverty and rely on waste food to survive.

From The Local in Germany:

Grass attacks austerity forced on Greece

Published: 26 May 2012 12:01 CET

German Nobel literature laureate Günter Grass has followed his Israel-critical poem from last month with one tearing into European policy on Greece.

His latest poem, “Europe’s Shame”, published in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, talks of the chaos in Greece and the suffering there, yet warns that Europe would be soulless if Greece were to leave as it had dreamed up the European idea.

He describes Greece as a country condemned to poverty, and as a “country without rights, whose belt is pulled tighter and tighter by the powers with rights.”

See also here. And here. And here.

The original German text of the poem is here. It has much imagery from Greek mythology, Greek history and history of Greek and German literature.

The “you” to whom Grass addresses his poem, is Europe; more precisely, politicians like Angela Merkel.

Here is my translation:

Europe’s shame

Close to chaos, because the market is not just, you’re far away from the country which was your cradle.

What was searched and found with one’s soul, is now considered to be as worthless as scrap metal.

As a debtor put naked on the pillory, a country about which you used to say you were grateful, suffers.

Poverty doomed country whose maintained wealth adorns museums of the loot you kept.

Those [World War II German nazi occupation soldiers] who hit the country, blessed with islands, with the force of arms wore both uniforms and [books of German poet, inspired by ancient Greek poetry] Hölderlin in their knapsacks.

Barely tolerated country whose colonels were once tolerated by you as an alliance partner.

Country which lost its rights, whose belt is tightened and tightened again by the cocksurely powerful.

Antigone defying you wearing black and all over the country, the people whose guest you have been wear mourning clothes.

However, outside the country, the Croesus resembling followers have hoarded all what glitters like gold in your vaults.

Booze at last, drink! [European] Commissioners’ cheerleaders shout. However, Socrates gives you back the [hemlock poison] cup full to the brim.

Curse you as a chorus, which is characteristic of you, will the gods, whose Mount Olympus you want to steal.

You’ll waste away mindlessly without the country, whose mind invented you, Europe.

Christine Lagarde’s “tough love” is an insult to Greece. By urging Greeks to pay up without whingeing the IMF chief has revealed her deep historical and cultural ignorance: here.

In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde vented her class hatred for the workers of Greece, denouncing them as tax scofflaws and ruling out any respite from the austerity measures that have devastated the country: here.

74 thoughts on “Günter Grass poem on Greece, austerity, translation

  1. Pingback: ‘Ireland, vote against EU austerity’ | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. The predicament of Athens is our problem

    Sunday 27 May 2012

    You present an interesting contrast between the Greek Communist Party (KKE) and the left group Syriza (No quick fix in Athens, M Star May 25).

    KKE appears to seek a solution within Greece whereas Syriza sees it as a microcosm of Europe’s problem generally.

    The left here was slow to support Greece, confused by the Tory press description of the country’s problems as being down to their spend now, pay later habits.

    We recognise such slanders when they are applied to us, but fall for it when other workers are so accused. Now the media want to deflect our attention away from Europe, to Greece alone, it is a financial “basket case” they tell us.

    In fact Greece’s problems are Europe’s problems.

    The European Community was set up to provide the stronger economies such as Germany’s with a flotilla of weaker countries supplying cheap labour, food and holiday sunshine.

    These weaker economies would also buy weapons and absorb loans. Greece’s orders for German submarines are believed to be the price Greece had to pay for its “bailout” and the recipients of the “aid” will be British banks.

    We need to recognise that these “bailouts” are to Greece’s suppliers and to Greece’s lenders. It isn’t the weakest link which has broken, it is the EC system which has broken the weakest link.

    I hope that in a future article, the crisis in Europe and its effect on Greece can be explored more comprehensively.

    Joe Clark
    Old Tupton



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