In this 1969 allegorical novel, a middle-aged teacher in Berlin needs extensive dental work--a perennial motif in Grass's novels, signifying the postwar moral decay of the German nation. At the same time, one of his students decides to protest the Vietnam War by burning his dog on a public street.
"It is a measure of Grass's seriousness that he has chosen to make a novel out of a theme as spectacularly unappealing as that of 'Local Anaesthetic'. It is a measure of his honesty that he persist in giving the young the one answer they do not want to hear: 'There is no answer.' It is a measure of his ability that he succeeds--touchingly, amusingly, agonizingly."