I mostly agree with Guy Dammann on Gunter Grass:
. . .the trouble with Grass's case is that just as it is impossible to disentangle his literary from his political legacy - his works of fiction, from the Tin Drum to 2003's controversial Crabwalk, are both driven by and intent on driving towards a particular moral and political vision of Germany - so too is it impossible to separate Grass' works from their author. In Germany, at least, having made himself so visible as the author of his works, it seems impossible that the damage done to his personal reputation will not leave deep scars on his books.
In an international environment, though, the case is somewhat different. Further removed from the struggle that has marked the last 60 years of German history, the sense of betrayal is bound to be less keen for those whose relation to Grass's work is a literary and aesthetic one. In a climate where it nowadays seems possible - if not uncontroversial - to admire the films of Leni Riefenstahl, the belated revelation of, as it were, "yet another" shameful episode in the wartime past of a prominent creative personality seems unlikely to make any lasting difference. Moreover, besides its purely literary merit, for non-German readers much of the value of Grass's work has been in the powerful access it provides to the complex morality and psychology of post-war Germany. Given that hypocrisy of precisely the kind now on display by their author is portrayed in his works as having been such an important feature of this psychology, whether you see the books through their author, or the author through his books doesn't seem to make much difference.
It is also arguable that having the kind of growing psychological burden that Grass must have had to carry all these years may in many ways have acted as a kind of stimulus to sustained activity and effort in what may be independently judged as the right direction. His response to the current situation - "My silence all these years was one of the reasons I had to write [my autobiography]" - seems uniformly weak if nonetheless highly plausible, but, as with Conrad's Lord Jim, those with a guilty past are often the most zealous when it comes to repairing the present. If Grass's silence is also partly what spurred him on, then the route to condemnation is less easy.
Hypocrisy is always ugly, but ugliness is no less important to literature than beauty. Grass's crime is to have betrayed those whose spokesman he has sought to be. For those of us lucky enough not to have required his services in this respect, he remains as powerful and as interesting a writer as before.
As far as I can tell, Grass's primary moral failing lies in remaining silent about his service with the Waffen-SS. Essentially, he is guilty of hypocrisy in not heeding his own demands of his fellow countrymen that they face up to their past. To a limited degree, then, he has lost the authority he once might have had in his chosen role as "spokesman"--limited because surely he was and remains correct that Germany must acknowledge its descent into fascism and mass murder. Do we now think Grass was wrong in his analysis of Germany's responsibilities because he apparently did not have the courage to admit he too was caught up in its historical madness?
Yet I can't see why even on a national level, Grass's reluctance to confess should "leave deep scars on his books." Won't their "literary and aesthetic" merits still be available to those readers who retain a respect for "purely literary" values? Won't German readers of the future, themselves no longer in need of his "services" as moral exemplar, be just as able to appreciate Grass's accomplishments as a novelist as those of us outside of Germany who never considered him to be one in the first place? (As opposed to those conservative readers and critics, in Germany and elsewhere, who will always judge him by his "leftist" political sympathies and don't otherwise really care about novels.) I can't imagine that, in the long run, The Tin Drum will be accepted as anything other than the powerful and beautifully rendered work of literature that it is.