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March 23, 2009 | by  | in Books |
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The Reader – Bernhard Schlink

The Reader is an intense and meaningful work by German author Bernhard Schlink. Beautifully written, it is one of two books that I have read in which, I believe, the author has poured their entire self writing the story with all their knowledge and wisdom. To say it is a novel about the Holocaust would be wrong—it is so much more than that.

The main theme of this book is Vergangenheitsbewältigung, or coming to terms with the past. The protagonist, Michael Berg, narrates the events from his later life, as he tries to come to terms with what has happened to him. This gives the narration years of profound experience and foresight, which shows especially when he discusses issues such as human nature, love, guilt and accountability.

The Reader is set into three distinct parts. In the first part, Michael describes how he had an affair with 36-year-old Hanna Schmitz when he was just 15, and details their relationship until its end, when Hanna mysteriously disappears. In the second part, Michael is now studying law when he encounters Hanna again, and he begins to learn the truth about her. After this I don’t want to spoil anything, it’s too good.

I heard that when the movie was released, it received much criticism for its Nazi- and Holocaust-related content. I think these people should have done their research into Germany’s history and culture. An entire generation of Germans—Schlink’s generation—had to face what their parents and loved ones may or may not have done in the Second World War. Which is what this book—this story—is all about.

“What should our second generation have done, what should it do with the knowledge of the horrors of the extermination of the Jews? We should not believe we can comprehend the incomprehensible, we may not compare the incomparable, we may not inquire because to inquire is to make the horrors an object of discussion, even if the horrors themselves are not questioned, instead of accepting them as something in the face of which we can only fall silent in revulsion, shame, and guilt.”

This book is incredibly deep. Before reading it for this review I had already read it twice and written an essay on it, yet I still found new things hidden between the lines, and am still amazed by its profoundness. A highly recommended read.

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About the Author ()

Mikey learned everything he knows about English Grammar in an MSN chat room when he was 13. Believing that people don't say "LOL" enough in everyday conversation, he has made it his mission to teach the world about grammerz one person at a time.

Comments (1)

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  1. Dee says:

    I’m a sophomore who had chosen to read this book for my Reader’s Workshop in English. Beautifully written, I agree. Very, very deep. It made to my favorites, actually. Glad you enjoyed it!

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