Peeling the Onion is a searingly honest memoir that evokes Grass' modest upbringing in Danzig, his time as a boy soldier fighting the Russians and concludes with the writing of his masterpiece, The Tin Drum , in Paris. Grass' parents ran a corner shop, but his mother, whom he adored, encouraged him towards books and music. Like most of his peers, he joined the Hitler Youth and in 1944, when he was just 17, he was sent to the Eastern front with the Waffen SS and found himself facing Russian tanks and machine guns. Recovering from shrapnel wounds in a military hospital, he had the good fortune to be taken prisoner by the Americans. In the aftermath of the war, following a stint as a miner, Grass survived by trading on the black market and resolved to become an artist, eventually enrolling at the Academy of Arts in Dusseldorf. While living as an artist in Berlin with his first wife Anna, a ballet dancer, he started to concentrate on writing poetry. It was after the couple moved to Paris that the first sentence of the novel he had been determined to write and that would make his reputation came to him: 'Granted: I am an inmate of a mental hospital'. Peeling the Onion is the story of a remarkable life and is, without question, one of Gunter Grass' finest works.