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Controversial Gunter Grass remains head of German PEN club

  • 12 May 2012
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BERLIN (AFP)
Nobel prize-winning author Gunter Grass

Nobel prize-winning author Gunter Grass remains honorary chairman of the German branch of the PEN club despite a bid to sack him over a controversial poem he wrote lambasting Israel, a spokeswoman said.

Grass, 84, recently provoked a heated international debate after publishing the piece entitled "What Must Be Said" in which he worried that a nuclear-armed Israel "could wipe out the Iranian people" with a "first strike."

Israel has since barred him from visiting the country, declaring him persona non grata.

The spokeswoman for the international association of writers said a request was received for Grass to be stripped of his honorary chairmanship, but a large majority of members rejected the call at their annual meeting in Rudolstadt, in eastern Germany.

No figures were given regarding the votes.

One of Germany's most influential intellectuals, Grass saw his substantial moral authority undermined by his 2006 admission, six decades after World War II, that he had been a member of Hitler's notorious Waffen SS as a 17-year-old.

Grass achieved world fame with his debut novel, "The Tin Drum" in 1959, and has pressed his country for decades to face up to its Nazi past.

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