German novelist Günter Grass, the Nobel Prize-winning author of The Tin Drum, an epic treatment of the Nazi era, on Monday at the age of 87, his publishers said. A broad-shouldered man with a drooping mustache, Grass spurned the German tradition of keeping a cool intellectual distance, insisting that a writer's duty was to be at the frontline of moral and political debate.
For many, he was the voice of a German generation that came of age in World War Two and bore the burden of their parents' guilt for the atrocities of the Nazis.
The independent German Cultural Council called him more than a writer ... a seismograph for society and the Anglo-Indian novelist Salman Rushdie called him a true giant, inspiration, and friend.
However, Grass's concealment until 2006 of the fact that he had served in a Nazi Waffen-SS regiment as a teenager cost him some of his moral authority.
Although hailed as a literary innovator for his magical realist style, Grass was more likely to use public platforms to air his views on issues such as nuclear power and Germans' historical responsibility than to discuss the craft of novel-writing.
A seasoned left-wing campaigner, he was a towering figure in West Germans' efforts to keep the door open to their Communist-ruled cousins in the east during the Cold War.
Yet Grass opposed hasty reunification after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, and hoped a new generation of German authors from the east would nourish their work on western arrogance.