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The Tin Drum Quotes

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The Tin Drum Quotes

Quote 1: "This is the time for the people who want to save me, whom it amuses to love me, who try to esteem and respect themselves, to get to know themselves, through me. How blind, how nervous and ill-bred they are! They scratch the white enamel of my bedstead with their fingernail scissors, they scribble obscene little men on it with their ballpoint pens and blue pencils." Chapter 1, pg. 16

Quote 2: "If I didn't have my drum, which, when handled adroitly and patiently, remembers all the incidentals that I need to get the essential down on paper, and if I didn't have the permission of the management [of the mental institution] to drum on it three or four hours a day, I'd be a poor bastard with nothing to say for my grandparents." Chapter 2, pg. 25

Quote 3: "But he has to dive on account of the launches and he has to stay under on account of the launches, and the raft passes over him and it won't stop, one raft engenders another: raft of thy raft, for all eternity: raft." Chapter 2, pg. 36

Quote 4: "[America is] the land where people find whatever they have lost, even missing grandfathers." Chapter 3, pg. 39

Quote 5: "Today Oskar says simply: The moth drummed. I have heard rabbits, foxes and dormice drumming. Frogs can drum up a storm. Woodpeckers are said to drum worms out of their hiding places. And men beat on basins, tin pans, bass drums, and kettledrums. We speak of drumfire, drumhead courts; we drum up, drum out, drum into. There are drummer boys and drum majors. There are composers who write concerti for strings and percussion. I might even mention Oskar's own efforts on the drum; but all this is nothing beside the orgy of drumming carried on by that moth in the hour of my birth, with no other instrument than two ordinary sixty-watt bulbs. Perhaps there are Negroes in darkest Africa and others in America who have not yet forgotten Africa who, with their well-known gift of rhythm, might succeed, in imitation of African moths - which are known to be larger and more beautiful than those of Eastern Europe - in drumming with such disciplined passion; I can only go by my Eastern European standards and praise that medium-sized powdery-brown moth of the hour of my birth; that moth was Oskar's master." Chapter 3, pg.48

Quote 6: "[Skat] was their refuge, their haven, to which they always retreated when life threatened to beguile them into playing, in one combination or another, such silly two-handed games as backgammon or sixty-six." Chapter 4, pg. 57

Quote 7: "I remained the three-year-old, the gnome, the Tom Thumb, the pigmy, the Lilliputian, the midget, whom no one could persuade to grow. I did so in order to be exempted from the big and little catechism and in order not, once grown to five-foot-eight adulthood, to be driven by this man [Matzerath] who face to face with his shaving mirror called himself my father, into a business, the grocery business, which as Matzerath saw it, would, when Oskar turned twenty-one, become his grownup world. To avoid playing the cash register I clung to my drum and from my third birthday on refused to grow by so much as a finger's breadth. I remained the precocious three-year-old, towered over by grownups but superior to all grownups, who refused to measure his shadow with theirs, who was complete both inside and outside, while they, to the very brink of the grave, were condemned to worry their heads about "development," who had only to confirm what they were compelled to gain by hard and often painful experience, and who had no need to change his shoe and trouser size year after year just to prove that something was growing." Chapter 4, pg. 60-61

Quote 8: "What, after all, is a clock? Without your grownup it is nothing. It is the grownup who winds it, who sets it back or ahead, who takes it tot he watchmaker to be checked, cleaned, and when necessary repaired. Just as with the cuckoo that stops calling too soon, just as with upset saltcellars, spiders seen in the morning, black cats on the left, the oil portrait of Uncle that falls off the wall because the nail has come loose in the plaster, just as in a mirror, grownups see more in and behind a clock than any clock can justify." Chapter 5, pg. 67

Quote 9: "The rabble behind me had long ceased their barbaric howls. I was beginning to fancy that my drum was teaching, educating my fellow pupils, making them into my pupils, when la Spollenhauer [Oskar's teacher] approached my desk. For a time she watched my hands and drumsticks, I wouldn't even say that her manner was inept; she smiled self-forgetfully and tried to clap her hands to my beat. For a moment she became a not unpleasant old maid, who had forgotten her prescribed occupational caricature and become human, that is, childlike, curious, complex, and immoral." Chapter 7, pg. 80

Quote 10: "I look for the land of the Poles that is lost to the Germans, for the moment at least. Nowadays the Germans have started searching for Poland with credits, Leicas, and compasses, with radar, divining rods, delegations, and moth-eaten provincial students' associations in costume. Some carry Chopin in their hearts, others thoughts of revenge. Condemning the first four partitions of Poland, they are busily planning a fifth; in the meantime flying to Warsaw via Air France in order to deposit, with appropriate remorse, a wreath on the spot that was once the ghetto. One of these days they will go searching for Poland with rockets. I, meanwhile, conjure up Poland on my drum. And this is what I drum: Poland's lost, but not forever, all's lost, but not forever, Poland's not lost forever." Chapter 8, pg. 107-108

Quote 11: "Even today I am occasionally sorry that I declined. I talked myself out of it, saying: 'You know, Mr. Bebra, I prefer to regard myself as a member of the audience. I cultivate my little art in secret, far from all applause. But it gives me pleasure to applaud your accomplishments.' Mr. Bebra raised a wrinkled forefinger and admonished me: 'My dear Oskar, believe an experienced colleague. Our kind has no place in the audience. We must perform, we must run the show. If we don't, it's the others that run us. And they don't do it with kid gloves.'" Chapter 9, pg. 114

Quote 12: "brown rallies on a drum which though red and white was not Polish." Chapter 10, pg. 124

Quote 13: "I was looking for Africa under those skirts, or perhaps Naples, which, as we all know, one must have seen before dying. This was the watershed, the union of all streams; here special winds blew, or else there was no wind at all; dry and warm, you could listen to the whishing of the rain; here ships made fast or weighed anchors; here our Heavenly Father, who has always been a lover of warmth, sat beside Oskar; the Devil cleaned his spyglass, and the angels played blindman's buff, beneath my grandmother's skirts it was always summer, even when it was time to light the candles on the Christmas tree or to hunt for Easter eggs; even on All Saints' Day. Nowhere could I have been more at peace with the calendar than beneath my grandmother's skirts." Chapter 10, pg. 125-126

Quote 14: "I asked the Satan within me: 'Did you get through it all right?'

Satan jumped up and down and whispered: 'Did you see those church windows? All glass, all glass!'" Chapter 11, pg. 137

Quote 15: "born of the folds of white fabrics" in which he saw the brooch "expand into heaven knows what: a sea of banners, the Alpine glow, a field of poppies, ready to revolt, against whom, Lord knows: against Indians, cherries, nosebleed, cocks' crests, red corpuscles, until a red occupying my entire field of vision provided a background for a passion which then as now was self-evident but not to be named, because the little word "red" says nothing..." Chapter 12, pg. 156

Quote 16: "I couldn't help feeling that her head would bob up again any minute and that she would have to vomit some more, that there was something more inside her that wanted to come out: not only that fetus aged three months who like me didn't know which father he had to thank for his existence; no, I thought, it's not just he who wants to come out and, like Oskar, demand a drum, no, there's more fish, not sardines, and not flounder, no, it's a little chunk of eel, a few whitish-green threads of eel flesh, eel from the battle of the Skagerrak, eel from the Naufahrwasser breakwater, Good Friday eel, eel from that horse's head, possibly eel from her father Joseph Koljaiczek who ended under the raft, a prey to the eels, eel of thine eel, for eel thou art, to eel returnest..." Chapter 13, pg. 163-164

Quote 17: "'Your genius, my young friend, the divine, but also no doubt the diabolical elements in your genius have rather confused my good Roswitha, and I too must own that you have in you a certain immoderation, a certain explosiveness, which to me is alien though not entirely incomprehensible.'" Chapter 14, pg. 172

Quote 18: "You've guessed it no doubt: Oskar's aim is to get back to the umbilical cord; that is the sole purpose behind this whole vast verbal effort and my only reason for dwelling on Herbert Truczinski's scars." Chapter 14, pg. 179

Quote 19: "Today I know that everything watches, that nothing goes unseen, and that even wallpaper has a better memory than ours. It isn't God in His Heaven that sees all. A kitchen chair, a coat-hanger, a half-filled ash tray, or the wooden replica of a woman named Niobe, can perfectly well serve as an unforgetting witness to every one of our acts." Chapter 15, pg. 192-193

Quote 20: "Strange to say, I expected more from literature than from real, naked life. Jan Bronski, whom I had often enough seen kneading my mother's flesh, was able to teach me next to nothing. Although I knew that this tangle, consisting by turns of Mama and Jan or Matzerath and Mama, this knot which sighed, exerted itself, moaned with fatigue, and at last fell stickily apart, meant love, Oskar was still unwilling to believe that love was love; love itself made him cast about for some other love, and yet time and time again he came back to tangled love, which he hated until the day when in love he practiced it; then he was obliged to defend it in his own eyes as the only possible love." Chapter 22, pg. 278-279

Quote 21: "Who was doing all this: Oskar, he, or I?

And Maria, who was sleeping upstairs and wide awake downstairs, who smelled upstairs of innocent vanilla and under the moss of pungent mushrooms, who wanted fizz powder, but not this little gentleman whom I didn't want either, who had declared his independence, who did just what he was minded to, who did things I hadn't taught him, who stood up when I lay down, who had other dreams than I, who could neither read nor write and nevertheless signed for me, who goes his own way to this very day, who broke with me on the very day I first took notice of him, who is my enemy with whom I am constrained, time and time again, to ally myself, who betrays me and leaves me in the lurch, whom I should like to auction off, whom I am ashamed of, who is sick of me, whom I wash, who befouls me, who sees nothing and flairs everything, who is so much a stranger to me that I should like to call him Sir, who has a very different memory from Oskar..." Chapter 22, pg. 280

Quote 22: "Oskar carried on negotiations with his two gods Dionysus and Apollo. ...If Apollo strove for harmony and Dionysus for drunkenness and chaos, Oskar was a little demigod whose business it was to harmonize chaos and intoxicate reason. In addition to his mortality, he had one advantage over all the full divinities whose characters and careers had been established in the remote past: Oskar could read what he pleased, whereas the gods censored themselves." Chapter 26, pg. 323

Quote 23: Lankes' calls his pillbox art: "Barbaric, Mystical, Bored."

Bebra: "You have given our century its name." Chapter 27, pg. 337

Quote 24: "'We dwarfs and fools have no business dancing on concrete made for giants. If only we had stayed under the rostrums where no one suspected our presence!'" Chapter 27, pg. 345

Quote 25: "While round us nothing stirred, he started in with his right stick, then a tap or two with his left, then both together. Blessed if he isn't crossing his sticks, say, that roll wasn't bad. He was very much in earnest and there was plenty of variety in his playing. He did some very complicated things but his simple rhythms were just as successful. There was nothing phony about his playing, he steered clear of gimmicks and just played the drum. His style wasn't even religious, and there was no military vulgarity about it. He was a musician through and through, but no snob. He knew all the hits. He played 'Everything Passes,' which everyone was singing at the time, and, of course, 'Lili Marlene.' Slowly, a little jerkily perhaps, he turned his curly head with the blue Bronski eyes toward me, smiled, rather arrogantly it seemed to me, and proceeded to weave Oskar's favorites into a potpourri..." Chapter 28, pg. 357

Quote 26: Oskar (of Jesus): "You bastard, I hate you, and all your hocus-pocus."

Jesus: "Thou art Oskar, the rock, and on this rock I will build my Church. Follow thou me!" Chapter 28, pg. 358

Quote 27: "was sick of dragging a father around with him all his life." Chapter 32, pg. 404

Quote 28: "'The Lord, the Lord!' he cried, shaking the lovebird in its cage. 'See the Lord! He's growing, he's growing!'

Then he was tossed into the air with the cage, and he ran, flew, danced, staggered, and fled with the screeching bird, himself a bird. Taking flight at last, he fluttered across the fields in the direction of the sewage land and was heard shouting through the voices of the tommy guns: 'He's growing, he's growing!' He was still screaming when the two young Russians reloaded. 'He's growing!' And even when the tommy guns rang out again, even after Oskar had fallen down a stepless staircase into an expanding, all-engulfing faint, I could hear the bird, the voice, the raven, I could hear Leo proclaiming to all the world: 'He's growing, he's growing, he's growing...'" Chapter 32, pg. 407

Quote 29: "'Yes, Oskar, that's how it is with the Kashubes. They always get hit on the head. You'll be going away where things are better, only Grandma will be left. The Kashubes are no good at moving. Their business is to stay where they are and hold out their heads for everybody else to hit, because we're not real Poles and we're not real Germans, and if you're a Kashube, you're not good enough for the Germans or the Polacks. They want everything full measure.'" Chapter 33, pg. 416

Quote 30: "But Mr. Matzerath himself is unable to keep his story running in a straight line. Take those four nuns in the freight car. First he refers to them as Franciscans and the next time he calls them Vincentians. But what throws his story out of kilter more than anything else is this young lady with her two names and her one supposedly foxlike face. To be really conscientious, I should have to write two or more separate versions of his journey from the East to the West. But that kind of thing is not in my line. I prefer to concentrate on the Social Democrat, who managed with one name and, my patient assures me, one story, which he repeated incessantly until shortly before Stolp, to the effect that up to 1937 he had been a kind of partisan, risking his health and sacrificing his free time pasting posters, for he had been one of the few Social Democrats to put up posters even when it was raining." Chapter 34, pg. 424

Quote 31: "Cemeteries have always had a lure for me. They are well kept, free from ambiguity, logical, virile, and alive. In cemeteries you can summon up courage and arrive at decisions, in cemeteries life takes on distinct contours - I am not referring to the borders of the graves - and if you will, a meaning." Chapter 35, pg. 438

Quote 32: "The fields were the fields of Denmark; the Erft was my Belt, whatever rot lay around was rotten in the state of Denmark - and I was Yorick....I looked on as Gründgens, Act III, scene I, labored his dilemma about being or not being, rejected this absurd formulation, and put the question more concretely: 'My son and my son's lighter flints, my presumptive earthly and heavenly father, my grandmother's four skirts, the beauty, immortalized in photographs, of my poor mama, the maze of scars on Herbert Truczinski's back, the blood-absorbing mail baskets at the Polish Post Office, America - but what is America compared to Streetcar Number 9 that went to Brösen?" Chapter 36, pg. 459-460

Quote 33: "...My beautiful hair is a glossy chestnut brown. They made me a scraggly-haired gypsy. Not a one of them ever noticed that Oskar has blue eyes." Chapter 37, pg. 463

Quote 34: "Oskar had nothing but his fists with which to fill the two concavities. They were inadequate. Too hard, too nervous, they were alien and unhappy in these bowls which in my ignorance of their contents I should gladly have lapped up with a teaspoon day after day; I might have experienced a little nausea now and then, for too much of any fare will unsettle the stomach, but after nausea sweetness, such sweetness as to make nausea desirable, the seal of true love." Chapter 39, pg. 491

Quote 35: "...it is not true that when the heart is full the eyes necessarily overflow, some people can never manage it, especially in our century, which in spite of all the suffering and sorrow will surely be known to posterity as the tearless century. It was this drought, this tearlessness that brought those who could afford it to Schmuh's Onion Cellar, where the host handed them a little chopping board - pig or fish - a paring knife for eighty pfennigs, and for twelve marks an ordinary, field-, garden-, and kitchen-variety onion, and induced them to cut their onions smaller and smaller until the juice - what did the onion juice do? It did what the world and the sorrows of the world could not do: it brought forth a round, human tear. It made them cry. At last they were able to cry again. To cry properly, without restraint, to cry like mad. The tears flowed and washed everything away. The rain came. The dew. Oskar has a vision of floodgates opening. Of dams bursting in the spring floods. What is the name of that river that overflows every spring and the government does nothing to stop it?" Chapter 42, pg. 525

Quote 36: "What more shall I say: born under light bulbs, deliberately stopped growing at age of three, given drum, sang glass to pieces, smelled vanilla, coughed in churches, observed ants, decided to grow, buried drum, emigrated to the West, lost the East, learned stonecutter's trade, worked as model, started drumming again, visited concrete, made money, kept finger, gave finger away, fled laughing, rode up escalator, arrested, convicted, sent to mental hospital, soon to be acquitted, celebrating this day my thirtieth birthday and still afraid of the Black Witch." Chapter 46, pg. 587

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