In general, the French-speaking critique did not lack in superlatives when discussing the overwhelming breakthrough and the continuously respected presence of Grass’s first novel Die Blechtrommel, which was translated in 1961 as Le Tambour. The book sets a standard for the opinions expressed in later reviews and comments. While research on the journalistic reception of Grass’s later novels in France reveals a differential appreciation in comparison with his earlier work, the French-language criticism and readership continued to support Grass’s work. Although there exists a considerable number of studies on Grass’s critical reception and on his international significance, the French reception of Le Tambour remains in this respect surprisingly ill-documented and under-interrogated. The aim of this article is, first of all, to provide a critical overview of the successful cultural transfer that Le Tambour represents in France and to gain insight into the possible reasons for this in view of a transnational reception perspective. Secondly, the present article examines one particular and unexplored segment of the work’s critical reception: the memory and canonization of Le Tambour throughout the national teaching certification programme of the Agrégation de lettres modernes in France. Our research into this subject shows how Grass’s novel, within the frame of a picaresque reading, does not so much follow the journalistic reception, but – according to our hypothesis – appears to emanate, already from the very beginning, an shared sense of aesthetics that formed for the French target public a European entry into the work, detached from the solely German matter.
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