Born on October 16, 1927 in Gdansk, Poland, Gï¿½nter Wilhelm Grass was a member of the Hitler Youth in the 1930s. At the age of 16, he was drafted into the German military, was wounded, and became a prisoner of war in 1945. His first novel, The Tin Drum (1959), selected by the French as the best foreign language book of 1962, is the story of Oscar Matzerath, a boy who refuses to grow up as a protest to the cruelty of German society during the war. It is the first part of his Danzig trilogy, followed by Cat and Mouse (1961) and Dog Years (1963), and was made into a movie by director Volker Schlondorff, winning the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1979. His other works include Local Anaesthetic, The Flounder, Crabwalk, and Peeling the Onion. He has been honored many times, including a distinguished service medal from the Federal Republic of Germany in 1980 which he refused to accept. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999.
Michael Henry Heim was born in New York on January 21, 1943. He received an undergraduate degree from Columbia University and a doctorate in Slavic languages from Harvard University. He was fluent in Czech, French, German, Italian, Russian and Serbian/Croatian and possessed a reading knowledge of six more languages. He became a professor of Slavic languages at the University California at Los Angeles in 1972 and served as chairman of the Slavic languages department from 1999 to 2003. He was known for his translations of works by Gunter Grass, Milan Kundera, Thomas Mann and Anton Chekhov. He received numerous awards for his work including the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize in 2005, the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation in 2009, and the PEN Translation Prize in 2010. He died from complications of melanoma on September 29, 2012 at the age of 69.