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Der Vorleser [The Reader]: Simplified Chinese Edition Of Der Vorleser Or The Reader, Winner Of The Fisk Fiction Prize. A Young Man Tries To Make

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Simplified Chinese edition of Der Vorlester or The Reader, winner of the Fisk Fiction Prize. A young man tries to make sense of human fallacies and the shame felt by the people connected to the Holocaust in postwar Germany. Distributed by Tsai Fong Books, Inc.


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Simplified Chinese edition of Der Vorlester or The Reader, winner of the Fisk Fiction Prize. A young man tries to make sense of human fallacies and the shame felt by the people connected to the Holocaust in postwar Germany. Distributed by Tsai Fong Books, Inc.

30 review for Der Vorleser [The Reader]: Simplified Chinese Edition Of Der Vorleser Or The Reader, Winner Of The Fisk Fiction Prize. A Young Man Tries To Make

  1. 4 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    What About the Children? The Reader is a profound exposition of the 'second generation' issues concerning moral guilt for the Holocaust. But it is, I think, also relevant more generally to the way in which human beings get ensnared incrementally into the evils of their society. We are all inevitably involved in this larger problem. And, like the SS guards at a Nazi death camp, we are unaware of the moral peril of our situation, and unwilling to remove ourselves from that situation even when its h What About the Children? The Reader is a profound exposition of the 'second generation' issues concerning moral guilt for the Holocaust. But it is, I think, also relevant more generally to the way in which human beings get ensnared incrementally into the evils of their society. We are all inevitably involved in this larger problem. And, like the SS guards at a Nazi death camp, we are unaware of the moral peril of our situation, and unwilling to remove ourselves from that situation even when its harmful effects are obvious. To be more personal and concrete: At the moment I have three acquaintances, each of whom has had a reasonably successful corporate career - one as an investment manager in the City, the second as a senior executive of an international sporting organisation, and the third as a partner of a global accounting firm. All three are, however, deeply dissatisfied with their lives. Their marriages, they all feel, are on the edge of breakdown. One has had a psychological breakdown and is now institutionalised. Another has been made redundant and, despite a large payout, sees nothing but existential gloom for the rest of his days. The last is disgusted with the complete indifference of both his colleagues and clients to the visible harm their firms are inflicting on the world. All of them, it shouldn't be necessary to emphasise, 'volunteered' for the careers and styles of living they now suffer from. A central question posed to The Reader's defendant in her trial for causing the death of Jewish prisoners trapped in a burning church is, "Why didn't you unlock the door?" I posed essentially the same question to my three acquaintances: "The situation you now find yourself in did not occur overnight." I gently suggested, "Therefore as you perceived what was happening to your mind, to your family, to the quality of your life, to national culture, why didn't you stop?" In principle, stopping is even less difficult than unlocking a door. The reasons given for not stopping were almost identical in all three cases: "I can't afford to." The financial denotation of 'afford', however, wasn't the main point. Guilt in not providing what their families needed was important. Financial compensation had become just that - compensation for the companionship of marriage and family that had been denied. This was associated with a fear of the disappointment or disapproval by their friends and family. Success is naturally a social matter defined for us by those we know well. But upon pushing a bit harder, it was also clear that the common strand among them was that each believed he had somehow let himself down by not realising the full potential he believed he had in him. This psychic driver of "being the best you can" struck loud bells in my own experience. It also reminded me of the remarkable book by Karen Ho, a social researcher from Princeton. Her ethnographic study of the life and culture of Wall Street, Liquidated, is as insightful as it is troublesome to anyone who asks themselves why indeed they have not simply unlocked the door to an alternative life. As she discovered in her employment in an investment bank, the culture of professional firms like Goldman Sachs and McKinsey & Company is grounded in a simple, direct message: "You are here (or want to be here in the case of applicants) because you are the best and want to be among the best." Call it the Culture of Presumptive Excellence (CPE) for short. CPE is what stimulates people to work consistently impossible hours, in places distant from home, with no respite. It also justifies the treatment of subordinates as corporate fodder, hiring and firing with panache, and insisting on single-minded loyalty as one moves up the ranks. Standards of excellence, after all, do not maintain themselves. In my experience, CPE, not compensation, or excitement, or 'perks', is the motive force of not just Wall Street but of the entire global corporate world. Escaping that world is no easier than escaping the totalitarian society of Nazi Germany. The identity and the obligations of 'being the best' is a very powerful lock indeed, without any obvious key. Of course CPE is not merely a corporate problem; it is a societal problem. It is a problem of the perceived order. Schlink's war-trial defendant, Hanna, did not unlock the doors of the church to let the prisoners out, not because she is evil or because she was following orders. She was afraid, she says, of the disorder that would have ensued: prisoners running amok without the proper supervision to get them back in marching line. It is this same disorder that my three acquaintances seem to fear most. The problem with being 'the best' is that the criterion for being best has to be set by someone with authority. The self-identity of the best depends on this. To reject this classification and the criteria that define it, one also must reject the authority that sanctioned it. This authority is so diffuse throughout society, that to reject it means to reject the entire society. The loss of both identity and context for establishing a new identity is the ultimate disorder, chaos. Jean Korelitz, for example, herself a former admissions officer for Princeton, shows how pervasive the CPE is in the steps before entering the corporate world in her novel, Admission. Princeton's 'pitch' to applicants is exactly the same as that of the Wall Street firms to its applicants: "As the best, you will want to stay among the best, so apply to Princeton." The stage before this, entry into prep school, is also fictionalised from experience, in turn, by Louis Auchincloss, particularly in his novel, The Rector of Justin. The message doesn't vary: "We are the best and will help you stay among the best." The destruction of personalities, families, and culture by CPE is systematic. And it is systematically defended even by those whom it excludes. The effects of CPE extend beyond those who are certifiably, as it were, the best to those who aspire to become part of the elite. Deficiencies are masked by the aspiration itself, which is merely the acceptance of the defining authority. In The Reader, Hanna is able to hide her secret shame by joining the SS, an elite corps. I can say with a moral certainty that all three of my acquaintances have what are, to them, equivalent to Hanna's secret deficiencies. Fear of exposure is therefore a powerful motivation to keep the system going, to promote its stable orderliness even when it is so evidently destructive. Schlink's narrator, Michael Berg, knows that Hanna could not have committed the crimes she is accused of because of the secret she is unwilling to reveal. She may be guilty but not as guilty as she appears, or of what she is charged with. What duty does he have to unlock the door with which she has imprisoned herself? To speak up, either to her or the court, would expose her to profound shame, greater shame even than that of being found guilty of war crimes perhaps. And if he does decide to speak up, how should he do it - to her? To her lawyer? To the judge? I feel the same dilemmas in advising my acquaintances, knowing that any mis-step could provoke yet more consternation as well as a pointed lack of gratitude for my solicited but still impertinent advice. Berg's father, a philosopher, advises a simple ethical rule: don't try to second guess the criterion of the good that an individual has established for himself. This is useless advice. It simply anoints conformity as the ethical norm. Conformity is the opposite of resistance, a capacity for which is essential to avoid personal co-optation, to either totalitarianism or corporatism. Resistance which can take many forms. All of them dangerous because they challenge order and the power behind order. And all demand apparently un-virtuous behaviour. How can one advise such a course to anyone one cares about? Ultimately Berg fails to act at all. I find myself in Berg's position. I feel any advice I can give is vapid. To suggest resistance against a corporate culture that is so pervasive and so domineering is madness. I can only ask the question "Best is the superlative for what?" But I can't answer the question. I am as trapped as anyone else. Will the children of my acquaintances, or my own, look at the lives of their parents with the same dismay as the so-called second generation of German children perceived their parents after 1945? Schlink's story ends in tragic sadness and unresolved guilt. Perhaps no other ending is possible.

  2. 4 out of 5

    karen

    booring. is that a review?? this was just very flat to me. i wasn't offended by the subject matter - i could care less about the "scandalous" elements. but the writing was so clinical and thin. at one point, i blamed the translation, but c'mon - its not that hard to translate german to english (i can't do it, of course, but it's supposed to be one of the easiest translations) i have nothing helpful to say about this except i was bored bored bored. the characters were unappealing, the "twists" we booring. is that a review?? this was just very flat to me. i wasn't offended by the subject matter - i could care less about the "scandalous" elements. but the writing was so clinical and thin. at one point, i blamed the translation, but c'mon - its not that hard to translate german to english (i can't do it, of course, but it's supposed to be one of the easiest translations) i have nothing helpful to say about this except i was bored bored bored. the characters were unappealing, the "twists" were ho-hum, and i thought it very dry .i don't know what oprah was thinking... come to my blog!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Der Vorleser = The reader, Bernhard Schlink The Reader is a novel by German law professor and judge Bernhard Schlink, published in Germany in 1995. The story is told in three parts by the main character, Michael Berg. Each part takes place in a different time period in the past. Part I begins in a West German city in 1958. After 15-year-old Michael becomes ill on his way home, 36-year-old tram conductor Hanna Schmitz notices him, cleans him up, and sees him safely home. He spends the next three m Der Vorleser = The reader, Bernhard Schlink The Reader is a novel by German law professor and judge Bernhard Schlink, published in Germany in 1995. The story is told in three parts by the main character, Michael Berg. Each part takes place in a different time period in the past. Part I begins in a West German city in 1958. After 15-year-old Michael becomes ill on his way home, 36-year-old tram conductor Hanna Schmitz notices him, cleans him up, and sees him safely home. He spends the next three months absent from school battling hepatitis. ... Part 2, Six years later, while attending law school, Michael is part of a group of students observing a war crimes trial. A group of middle-aged women who had served as SS guards at a satellite of Auschwitz in occupied Poland are being tried for allowing 300 Jewish women under their ostensible "protection" to die in a fire locked in a church that had been bombed during the evacuation of the camp. The incident was chronicled in a book written by one of the few survivors, who emigrated to the United States after the war; she is the main prosecution witness at the trial. ... Part 3, Years have passed, Michael is divorced and has a daughter from his brief marriage. He is trying to come to terms with his feelings for Hanna, and begins taping readings of books and sending them to her without any correspondence while she is in prison. Hanna begins to teach herself to read, and then write in a childlike way, by borrowing the books from the prison library and following the tapes along in the text. She writes to Michael, but he cannot bring himself to reply. After 18 years, Hanna is about to be released, so he agrees (after hesitation) to find her a place to stay and employment, visiting her in prison. On the day of her release in 1983, she commits suicide and Michael is heartbroken. Michael learns from the warden that she had been reading books by many prominent Holocaust survivors, such as Elie Wiesel, Primo Levi, Tadeusz Borowski, and histories of the camps. The warden, in her anger towards Michael for communicating with Hanna only by audio tapes, expresses Hanna's disappointment. Hanna left him an assignment: give all her money to the survivor of the church fire. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز نوزدهم ماه فوریه سال 2004 میلادی عنوان: برايم كتاب بخوان ؛ نویسنده: برنهارد شلینک؛ مترجم: بهمندخت اویسی؛ تهران، نشر فرزان، 1381؛ در سیزده و 239 ص؛ شابک: 9643211703؛ چاپ دیگر با عنوان: کتابخوان؛ تهران، نشر تاریخ ایران، 1388، در 204 ص؛ شابک: 9789646082755؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان آلمانی - سده 20 م داستان در سال 1958 میلادی در آلمان آغاز می‌شود. «میشائیل»، نوجوان پانزده ساله، بطور اتفاقی، با زنی به نام «هانا»، آشنا و به او علاقمند می‌شود. «هانا» هر بار که «میشائیل» نزد او می‌رود، او را وادار می‌کند، تا برایش با صدای بلند کتاب بخواند. «میشائیل» روزی متوجه می‌شود، که «هانا» بدون آنکه نشانی از خود برجای بگذارد، شهر را ترک کرده است. سال‌ها می‌گذرد، و «میشائیل» بزرگ می‌شود. او در رشته ‌ی حقوق تحصیل می‌کند، و روزی، در یکی از دادگاه‌ هایی که برای مجازات جنایتکاران جنگ جهانی دوم برپا ‌شده، «هانا» را می‌یابد. «هانا» در جایگاه متهمان قرار گرفته، و شواهد بر این دلالت دارند، که او در زمان جنگ، نگهبان زندانیانی بوده است، که به شکل وحشیانه ‌ای قتل‌عام شده ‌اند …؛ با اقتباس از این داستان فیلمی نیز به همین نام ساخته شده است. ا. شربیانی

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lavinia

    I have the feeling there's more than one way of looking at this book. On one hand it can be viewed as a bildungsroman, it follows Michael Berg since the age of 15 till full maturity. On the other hand, it's the post-war German generation coming to terms with their past, the Nazi crimes and their parents' guilt. Guilt, actually, is a recurring theme in the novel: Hanna is guilty of war crimes, Michael is guilty for betrayal (plus he feels guilty for having loved Hanna and asks himself if that mak I have the feeling there's more than one way of looking at this book. On one hand it can be viewed as a bildungsroman, it follows Michael Berg since the age of 15 till full maturity. On the other hand, it's the post-war German generation coming to terms with their past, the Nazi crimes and their parents' guilt. Guilt, actually, is a recurring theme in the novel: Hanna is guilty of war crimes, Michael is guilty for betrayal (plus he feels guilty for having loved Hanna and asks himself if that makes him a criminal as well), Michael's father for not being enough of a father. The question you get stuck with, after reading, is Hanna's question addressed to the judge: "What would you have done?" The question I am stuck with is: What would have happened if the truth had been told? On a bohemian level, the novel is about love for books and reading, so that's a plus for bookworms :)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Emily May

    I'm not really sure why this book is considered one of the best books of all time and managed to make into the big 1001 list. Most of the time, even if I don't like a book, I tend to understand why someone else picked it. In this case, I'm rather clueless. Is it, perhaps, that people see in it some message about humanity when Hanna won't purchase her freedom with the secret she has kept hidden for years? Is it the vivid sexual tale of a teenage boy with an older woman? Are we supposed to be shoc I'm not really sure why this book is considered one of the best books of all time and managed to make into the big 1001 list. Most of the time, even if I don't like a book, I tend to understand why someone else picked it. In this case, I'm rather clueless. Is it, perhaps, that people see in it some message about humanity when Hanna won't purchase her freedom with the secret she has kept hidden for years? Is it the vivid sexual tale of a teenage boy with an older woman? Are we supposed to be shocked by it? The novel starts with a romance when fifteen year old Michael finds himself ill on the way home from school and is taken in by a woman twice his age. They begin an affair which is described by numerous critics as "erotic". This was the first hurdle my enjoyment came up against. When I was fifteen with raging hormones and an extremely good-looking history teacher, I would probably have been able to appreciate the eroticism of such an opportunity - to have an illicit affair with someone much older and experienced. But that's just a bunch of teenage fantasies that would never have become realities. Now, it creeps me out. I couldn't see it as a love story, I saw it as being about an adult who takes advantage of a child (all very ironic when I think about my first interpretation of Lolita, but I guess I grew up somewhat). It has been suggested that we are expected to draw parallels between Hanna's secret and the behaviour of most German people during the second world war, that is why Schlink deliberately set the novel in this fragile post-war period. But I'm really not a fan of stories that are one big metaphor for something else... or no, maybe it isn't so much that I don't like that, but more that it has to be done in a manner which I find appealing and it has to be obvious. I refuse to believe in metaphors that have been proposed by some random critic and then jumped on by everyone else. I'm trying not to give away Hanna's secret in case there are people who haven't worked it out straight away, but I wasn't buying into this metaphor. This combined with the author's sparse tone quickly distanced me from the novel. I just prefer interesting and complex characters, an engaging plot, relationships I care about... I prefer all this over metaphor. In the end, metaphor is subjective and if I can't see it myself without someone else suggesting it to me then I believe either the author failed to make their metaphorical point clearly enough or the metaphor itself doesn't exist.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Whitney Atkinson

    This is the deep character development and type of writing that i've been craving. A book that made me think and ask so many questions. Sometimes I felt like I was struggling through really heavy writing, but the actual story itself and the moral questions that arise from its telling were really, really interesting and I surprised myself with how much I found myself contemplating this novel. Someone told me there's a movie with Kate Winslet and she is my actual wife so i'm gonna go track that do This is the deep character development and type of writing that i've been craving. A book that made me think and ask so many questions. Sometimes I felt like I was struggling through really heavy writing, but the actual story itself and the moral questions that arise from its telling were really, really interesting and I surprised myself with how much I found myself contemplating this novel. Someone told me there's a movie with Kate Winslet and she is my actual wife so i'm gonna go track that down bye

  7. 5 out of 5

    Hirdesh

    Great book.Wonderful piece and remotely expressed Words flowing like water in oceans. I'd Miss someone with that book. As the Young Lady entangled with teen. Which flows the flawless love between them even when she got life imprisonment, She was turned to old. And Teen was turned to Man. Time had changed, but their love sustained as he gave her recordings of stories. Lovely Book. Also, Watch movie based on this novel, My one of favourite actress, the drama Queen Kate Winslet's performance was surreal Great book.Wonderful piece and remotely expressed Words flowing like water in oceans. I'd Miss someone with that book. As the Young Lady entangled with teen. Which flows the flawless love between them even when she got life imprisonment, She was turned to old. And Teen was turned to Man. Time had changed, but their love sustained as he gave her recordings of stories. Lovely Book. Also, Watch movie based on this novel, My one of favourite actress, the drama Queen Kate Winslet's performance was surreal .

  8. 5 out of 5

    Apokripos

    There are some books you know will stay with you forever, and Bernhard Schlink's The Reader is definitely one of them. It has been highly critically acclaimed, winning the Boston Book Review's Fisk Fiction Prize, and it deserves all the praise it has received. The Holocaust is a difficult, though much covered, subject matter, and this novel has a sure touch and an appealing lack of judgment with it. The story begins in the world of almost-childhood of fifteen-year-old Michael Berg, recovering fr There are some books you know will stay with you forever, and Bernhard Schlink's The Reader is definitely one of them. It has been highly critically acclaimed, winning the Boston Book Review's Fisk Fiction Prize, and it deserves all the praise it has received. The Holocaust is a difficult, though much covered, subject matter, and this novel has a sure touch and an appealing lack of judgment with it. The story begins in the world of almost-childhood of fifteen-year-old Michael Berg, recovering from a summer of hepatitis, begins a relationship with Hanna, a much older woman he meets by chance. The first part of the novel, untouched by the shadow of the recent war or Germany's disturbed and dangerous past, deals with Michael and Hanna's burgeoning relationship, and the little fears and worries that can make up one big problem. Eventually, as we know it must, their relationship ends and Hanna moves away. When the book moves on to the second part, the tone has changed considerably. Michael, now a law student, attends the trial of female Nazi war criminals. To his shock, one of them is Hanna, who had been a camp guard at Auschwitz. I won't say more for fear of spoiling it for you, but the Holocaust is seriously considered in the light of philosophy and moral responsibility. There is an attitude that one becomes numb to the horror of it all if too exposed to it, and this book does not go into ghastly detail, but rather examines even more painful details: who was to blame, how do we live with the suffering, how can one atone, and most of all, what is the next generation to do? It also looks at what it means to love someone, how much we can accept of them and how blind we can be to those we love. Love, guilt and betrayal feature prominently in this novel. In many ways Hanna was innocent, and yet it becomes apparent that she lived every day with terrible guilt; Michael was a victim of her actions, and yet he too is guilty by association. The reader of the title is Michael, who read to Hanna during the early part of the relationship; the reader is Hanna, alone in prison occupying herself by learning about the experiences of camp inmates. The reader is selected individuals in the camps who read aloud to Hanna, and may have died because of it. But most of all, the reader is ourselves; the title points the finger at us, because now we have the knowledge, what should we do with it? If all it takes for evil to prevail is for the good to remain silent, then how innocent are any of us? And how can we deal with the subsequent guilt? There are so many layers to this subtly complex novel that having just finished it, I have to start it again. The transforming power of words is negated by their ultimate futility, and actions in this novel speak deafeningly loud. If we have a responsibility towards the past, to learn from it, and I believe we do, then this book will help us to go some way towards fulfilling it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    İntellecta

    The book is clearly structured. Also the choice of words is at a normal level and therefore also suitable for beginners in classical, great literature.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    The biggest problem I had with this book was the fact that it made me feel...nothing. I didn't feel connected to the characters or to any part of the plot. This is quite a bummer, as it deals with a pretty heavy topic. I feel like the author intended to write the story this way though, because the writing style in general has a certain type of "coldness" to it, and the true feelings of a character are never really explored. Some people might not be bothered by this, but I personally simply prefe The biggest problem I had with this book was the fact that it made me feel...nothing. I didn't feel connected to the characters or to any part of the plot. This is quite a bummer, as it deals with a pretty heavy topic. I feel like the author intended to write the story this way though, because the writing style in general has a certain type of "coldness" to it, and the true feelings of a character are never really explored. Some people might not be bothered by this, but I personally simply prefer feeling close and connected to the characters of a story. This doesn't make the entire book bad though. It certainly was interesting, and Bernhard Schlink is skillful with how he uses words. He describes mundane activities in a wonderful and fascinating way, and this makes me understand 100% why so many schools choose this novel as part of their required reading material. I also appreciated how he always got straight to the point, instead of writing unnecessary details to prolong the plot points we all already know are coming. I also couldn't help but feel disgusted at the things taking place in the first part of the book, and I wish the problematic aspects were explored further, instead of just brushing upon the issue later on. Overall, this was a good book to read inbetween, but nothing life changing or special.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    This novel breaks so many taboos, it is hard to know where to start reflecting on it. And yet, its plot is not unrealistic or uncommon. It is about a sexual relationship between a young man and an older woman. It is about illiteracy and shame. It is about crimes against humanity, committed out of helplessness and an egocentric wish to hide one's own weakness. It is about the Holocaust weighing on the shoulders of post-1945 Germany's population. It is about the past being reshaped in memory when furth This novel breaks so many taboos, it is hard to know where to start reflecting on it. And yet, its plot is not unrealistic or uncommon. It is about a sexual relationship between a young man and an older woman. It is about illiteracy and shame. It is about crimes against humanity, committed out of helplessness and an egocentric wish to hide one's own weakness. It is about the Holocaust weighing on the shoulders of post-1945 Germany's population. It is about the past being reshaped in memory when further knowledge about a person adds a new layer to a relationship. It is about the coexistence of complete indifference towards the lives of many human beings and compassion for one specific individual. It is surprisingly not much about hatred, despite the topic. It is about overcoming a disability. It is about facing justice - or not. It is painful to read. And yet hope hides in a corner. If you can't read it yourself, find someone who is willing to read it to you. Or record it on tape. Literacy is a massive achievement and immensely important for human communication. Read it!

  12. 4 out of 5

    PirateSteve

    " " I ... I mean ... so what would you have done? " Hanna meant it as a serious question. She did not know what she should or could have done differently, and therefore wanted to hear from the judge, who seemed to know everything, what he would have done. " This same question is posed in other situations throughout this book. Should Michael, being the only other person to know Hanna's secret, have exposed this secret in order to help her during the trial? Should Michael have been more understand " " I ... I mean ... so what would you have done? " Hanna meant it as a serious question. She did not know what she should or could have done differently, and therefore wanted to hear from the judge, who seemed to know everything, what he would have done. " This same question is posed in other situations throughout this book. Should Michael, being the only other person to know Hanna's secret, have exposed this secret in order to help her during the trial? Should Michael have been more understanding toward Hanna, after the trial? Should the average German citizen feel shame for not doing more to avert the Holocaust? How should today's German citizen feel towards their ancestors that had to endure World War II? As 'that guard', what should Hanna have done? You be the judge...........

  13. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    It's too simple to say I read any single book because I want to read it. There are dozens of reasons I'll pick up a particular title: I like the author; I like the subject matter; the book is an award winner; the book comes with many trusted recommendations; I was supposed to read the book in high school and I feel guilty because I played Goldeneye on my N64 instead. I will freely admit that I read War and Peace simply to say I read War and Peace. I'd take it to the cafeteria every day and let p It's too simple to say I read any single book because I want to read it. There are dozens of reasons I'll pick up a particular title: I like the author; I like the subject matter; the book is an award winner; the book comes with many trusted recommendations; I was supposed to read the book in high school and I feel guilty because I played Goldeneye on my N64 instead. I will freely admit that I read War and Peace simply to say I read War and Peace. I'd take it to the cafeteria every day and let people see me with it. I was trying to project a certain image; unfortunately, the image I projected was a creepy loner way too interested in Russian melodrama. I read The Reader because it had Nazis. And because it prominently featured a deviant sexual affair. Sold and sold. I dared think that Bernhard Schlink's novel might be that rarest of things, these days: truly transgressive. I mean, sex and Nazis and a literary pedigree to boot. Where do I sign up? This slim novel tells the story of an affair between 15 year-old Michael and the far-older Hanna, with whom he has an affair in West Germany in 1958. Hanna, a tram conductor, comes to Michael's aid when Michael falls ills. Later, Michael's mother forces Michael to go thank Hanna; after a laughably stupid seduction (the literary equivalent of that old porn standby, the copy repairman), the two are having an affair. I guess this is shocking? Taboo busting? I don't know. I can't really muster much moral outrage at statutory rape when it is set against the recent background of the Holocaust. Moreover, the scenes between the two "lovers" (how I despise that phrase!) are written in such a mundane, clinical fashion, that I could only speculate that Schlink (or his translator) was a technical writer, taking time off from telling me the side effects of Ditropan. (In reality, Schlink is a judge, and I suppose the detached, just-the-facts-ness of The Reader could be compared to a legal brief). The affair goes on for awhile. It doesn't generate much heat, since both the main characters are constructed out of cardboard, with macaroni faces and yarn for hair. The title is also explained - partially - because Michael must read aloud to Hanna before they Biblically unite. That sound you hear is my eyes rolling. Eventually, Hanna disappears. Seven years later, Michael is a law student, and he attends a war crimes trial where - SHOCK! - Hanna is on trial. Turns out she was a concentration camp guard: think Mary Kay Letourneau crossed with Heinrich Himmler. It's hard to screw up a novel about a Nazi pedophile, but it happens here. There is always going to be tension when a fictional work of art (using that term loosely) is set against the backdrop of a recent tragedy. Until the last person who survived said tragedy is dead, any author daring to touch the subject is going to get dinged a little. We can all argue about the morality of such fictionalizations, but the point is moot. It's going to happen. Schlink obviously knew the dangers going in, and tried to avoid them. In doing so, he wrote a book that is simply flat. There are two directions to take a story like this. First, there is over-the-top, Inglorious Basterds-style pulp. Just accept that your book is basically fan-fiction from the SS Experiment Camp line of movies, and wait for Cinemax to call with an offer. The second direction is to make a serious, searching novel about an ordinary person who survived the Holocaust, but as a cog in the machinery of death, rather than a survivor. Explore how that person lives each day wtih the things he or she has done. This kind of book would take a lot of psychological digging, and there aren't a lot of authors up to this task. The Reader tries to do a little of both, and ends up a big, dull, intellecutally-insulting dud. As already noted, the love affair generates slightly less heat than the pairing of Liza Minnelli and David Gest. The decision to include a statutorily illegal relationship was obviously meant to garner attention, but it fails to shock, titilate, or even vaguely incite any interest. The transition to the courtroom, and beyond, is even worse. Here, the author makes a half-hearted attempt to avoid moral relativism, and then falls right into that trap. In an epic bit of reductionism, Schlink manages to equate the tragedy of the Holocaust with - spoiler alert, I guess - adult illiteracy. If only that was a joke. Schlink's idea of depth is to fill a couple of pages with facile hypothetical questions that he helpfully leaves unanswered. All the better; I doubt I would care about what answers he discovered. While Part I of The Reader is a tepid affair between two paper dolls, and Part II reduces the Holocaust to one SS Guard's illiterate shame, Part III manages, stunningly, to get worse. The epilogue, which must be read to be believed, is so stilted, awkward, and glib that I almost felt bad for the characters/ciphers forced to utter the tortured dialogue. I suppose I got what I deserved. It's like when you click on a hyperlink for naked celebrity photos and get a computer virus instead. (Or so I've been told...) I picked up this book thinking it might be trashy, and it turned out it was, but just not the kind of trash I enjoy.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    There have been many ways over the years in which literature has found a path to deal with the Holocaust and its consequences, but a book about the inability to be able to read might not seem the most obvious. Yet in terms of attracting a mass audience, something that Schlink has clearly done, this German novel with illiteracy at its heart published back in the mid-90's, has been a phenomenon amongst readers. Bernhard Schlink's forth and easily most popular novel opens in post-war Germany when a There have been many ways over the years in which literature has found a path to deal with the Holocaust and its consequences, but a book about the inability to be able to read might not seem the most obvious. Yet in terms of attracting a mass audience, something that Schlink has clearly done, this German novel with illiteracy at its heart published back in the mid-90's, has been a phenomenon amongst readers. Bernhard Schlink's forth and easily most popular novel opens in post-war Germany when a teenage boy, Michael Berg (who also narrates), embarks on a love affair with a thirty-something woman, Hanna, who disappears, then years later turns up in the dock as a former concentration camp guard accused of the mass murder of Jewish women locked in a burning church. Michael, by now a law student observing the trial, realises that Hanna is a secret illiterate, a fact that has profoundly affected her actions in the past as well as fatally undermining her defence in court. Schlink says that writing about illiteracy "was there when I started to think about the book. I did a great deal of research into it, but I never had an objective beyond telling that story. I'm sure the things I think about and worry about in other contexts play into the stories I write. But I do not know how they do that, and I'm really uninterested in the epistemology of my writing." The theme certainly chimes, in terms of dramatically echoing the Third Reich's moral illiteracy, but the way the book has been enthusiastically taken up and used almost as documentary points to an impact that has far exceeded Schlink's immediate narrative ambitions. The hapless Hanna, conscientiously unscrupulous in the performance of her labor-camp duties, committed crimes against humanity, obviously. But what of the young law student who denies her his word, his aid? The paralyzing shame, the psychic numbing, the moral failures of the lucky late-born are the novel's central focus. Nazi holdovers in postwar Germany are denounced only at the margins of the story, so to speak. But this oblique approach has its own power. In one quietly disturbing scene, Michael visits the nearest concentration camp, Struthof, in Alsace that had a sign on it indicating that it had been a gas chamber. But Schlink spares his readers the sickening details. Literature is not only a bridge between the generations, sometimes it may get closer to the truth of recent history than benumbed eyewitness accounts. But this redemptive magic has its limits. Substituting great books for human contact is a cowardly dodge. At the novel's somber conclusion, Michael betrays Hanna yet again. On Hanna though, if one would call this more holocaust literature than a legal thriller with sex in it, then criticism of the book, from people who treat it as Holocaust literature, are right to say that Schlink doesn't come to a proper judgment of Hanna. Schlink acknowledges that he has been criticised for not unambiguously condemning Hanna. Is this fair? I think his novel can be open to so many interpretations. Guess that's part of it's appeal. All this aside, I just found the novel top to bottom rather bland. It brings up many questions, yes, and for the most part it at least held my curiosity. But seeing that it sold in huge numbers I expected much more. Maybe it's shortish length didn't help, it felt like not enough pages are actually given to alluding as to the true horrors of Hanna's crimes and the rest of it is simply the diatribe and musings of a teenage boy. Maybe I am missing the point? As books about the legacy of the holocaust go, there are much better ones out there than this. I will also say I much preferred the film over the book. With Kate Winslet giving a tour-de-force performance as Hanna.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nandakishore Varma

    There are certain books which have an impact on one, without one being able to put one's finger exactly on the reason why. 'The Reader' by Bernhard Schlink is such a book. The experience of reading this book was like taking a train ride through a pleasant landscape: you mosey along comfortably, enjoying the view and the climate, settled and relaxed. The journey is comfortable enough without being anything out of the ordinary. Then suddenly, the train enters a section of the countryside which is b There are certain books which have an impact on one, without one being able to put one's finger exactly on the reason why. 'The Reader' by Bernhard Schlink is such a book. The experience of reading this book was like taking a train ride through a pleasant landscape: you mosey along comfortably, enjoying the view and the climate, settled and relaxed. The journey is comfortable enough without being anything out of the ordinary. Then suddenly, the train enters a section of the countryside which is breathtaking in its beauty, and you are jolted out of your somnolence. You sit up and watch, your nose glued to the window, watching with rapt attention. You are unaware of the journey's passing, of temporal time, so engrossed are you in the present experience. The tale of 15-year-old Michael Berg (the first-person narrator) and thirty-something Hanna Schmidt, a tram conductor in post WW-2 Germany is pretty sordid in the beginning; having collapsed from hepatitis in front of her house, he is taken care of and helped home by her. Michael's thank-you visit to Hanna after convalescing, however, becomes a voyeuristic session and it's not long before they are lovers. It is an adolescent's fantasy come true, a bit like Lolita in reverse. The tale takes on a different twist once Michael starts reading to Hanna. Apparently, she can't get enough of his stories. So their sexual escapades are now connected to prolonged reading sessions which each one of them enjoys. But Hanna still remains an enigma to Michael with her erratic behaviour, an enigma which becomes all the more inexplicable when she disappears on the threshold of her promotion as tram driver. The next time he sees her, she is in the dock. Hanna is charged as a Nazi war criminal, a guard of a small concentration camp near Cracow, a satellite camp for Auschwitz. She is accused, along with others, of causing the death of a group of camp inmates by locking them up in a burning church. As a law student, Michael is covering her trial. Hanna's strange, self-destructive behaviour in the courtroom as well as her unusual acts as the camp guard (providing vulnerable young inmates with special status in the camp, to read books to her, until they were sent to Auschwitz to their death) intrigue him. One day, linking it to their sex-cum-reading sessions, he makes a startling discovery about his one-time lover... Later on, Michael is a disillusioned middle-aged man, with a failed marriage and a colourless life. He finds that he cannot exorcise Hanna from his psyche. At the end of his tether, he hits upon a unique solution: Michael finds solace for himself, as well as redemption for Hanna, through his old medium - that of reading. *** Ultimately, what is this book about? Is it about paedophilia, or an adolescent fantasy? Is it about Nazism, and man's cruelty towards man? Is it the tale of a Germany coming to terms with its Nazi past, disguised as a coming-of-age story? I, personally, would like to see it as an allegory on the redemptive power of storytelling. In all cultures, bards enjoyed a special, revered status - in India, it approaches the divine (think of Vyasa and Valmiki). Here, Hanna's sins - both the carnal as well as the homicidal - are linked with getting stories read to her; so, unusually, is her redemption in the last part of the book. Hanna Schmidt is a masterly creation. In the short span of 200+ pages, the author has brought to life an engrossing character who remains a puzzle until the very end. This is one holocaust story which does not take the trodden path.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This book just fell short with me, on oh so many levels. One thing that did intrigue me and that I have not yet seen much of is the perspective of Germans after the Holocaust and their views on the Third Reich and Hitler's agenda, especially of the younger generation of that time. That was really the only thing that struck me about this book. The rest was just not enough. For one, the affair between MIchael and Hanna was deplorable. Is it supposed to not be as bothersome because it is an older w This book just fell short with me, on oh so many levels. One thing that did intrigue me and that I have not yet seen much of is the perspective of Germans after the Holocaust and their views on the Third Reich and Hitler's agenda, especially of the younger generation of that time. That was really the only thing that struck me about this book. The rest was just not enough. For one, the affair between MIchael and Hanna was deplorable. Is it supposed to not be as bothersome because it is an older woman with a teenage boy, rather than an older man with a teenage girl? Either way, in my opinion, it's just not palatable and I felt neither sympathy for either of the characters nor did I feel that it was relatable on many levels at all whatsoever. The writing fell flat for me and was rather dry. Not in the beautiful sparse language trends of Hemingway, but in an annoying succinct manner that just left each situation as it occurred "as is" with nothing left to ponder. I noticed that this novel has won awards and while it means absolutely nothing to me because her choices are not always great or even good in the least, but it was on Oprah's Book Club list a number of years back. Neither are good enough reasons for anyone to read this book, in my opinion. Spare yourselves and read a nice historical account of Germany after the Holocaust, if you are inclined. I am sure it would be much richer reading in any case than this novel.

  17. 4 out of 5

    F

    Just not for me. Hated both characters. I didn't feel sorry for either of them.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Manny

    [Before reading: posted late 2009] Haven't read it, but was completely blown away by the movie. Masterpiece! Kate Winslet was even better than I'd expected, and that's saying quite a bit. Maybe I'll finally get serious about improving my German... no question about the appropriateness of the book. _______________________ [After reading: posted early 2019] It's funny how all the books you read link up inside you and start talking to each other. I finished Der Vorleser a week or so ago, and for once I [Before reading: posted late 2009] Haven't read it, but was completely blown away by the movie. Masterpiece! Kate Winslet was even better than I'd expected, and that's saying quite a bit. Maybe I'll finally get serious about improving my German... no question about the appropriateness of the book. _______________________ [After reading: posted early 2019] It's funny how all the books you read link up inside you and start talking to each other. I finished Der Vorleser a week or so ago, and for once I just didn't know what to say. Everything I thought of seemed inadequate. But then yesterday I started Romain Gary's Chien blanc, which a French friend had recommended to me, and after a couple of hours I found a scene that brought everything into focus. In Gary's supposedly autobiographical novel, the author, who's living in 1968 LA, adopts a stray dog, a German shepherd he calls Batka. Gary is a dog person, Batka is a kind, good-natured dog, and they really hit it off. Within days, Gary and his wife feel he's part of the family. But then a terrible and unexpected thing happens. A guy comes to clean their pool, and the moment Batka sees the visitor he's transformed into a murderous, snarling beast. Teeth bared, he lunges at the terrified pool cleaner, who's luckily still on the other side of the gate. Gary can barely hold him back. He apologises profusely and the pool cleaner, still shaking, leaves. A couple of days later, the same thing happens again, this time with a Western Union delivery boy. Gary thinks about it, and there's a link between the two incidents which is distressingly obvious: the pool cleaner and the delivery boy were both black, all their other visitors that week have been white. He takes Batka to a friend who's an expert on animals, and the friend confirms his suspicions. Batka is a "white dog", a dog who's been painstakingly trained to attack blacks. They have them in the American South. Originally, they tracked escaped slaves; now the police use them against demonstrators. Gary's friend says Batka, who is about seven, is way too old to be retrained and is highly dangerous. The only sensible thing is to put him down. Gary sits with the dog for several hours. Then he takes Batka to his car and visits a friend who lends him a revolver. They drive out to an isolated place in the woods. They get out of the car. Batka is happy to be with his master. He sits expectantly, waiting for new instructions. Gary takes out the revolver. Batka knows what is is, but he doesn't run. He just sits where he is, looking at Gary sadly. Gary aims, but he's now crying so much that he can't see properly. He fires and misses. Batka still doesn't run. Instead, he slowly walks over to Gary and licks the barrel of the gun. Gary can't take any more. They get back in the car and drive home. Well, Der Vorleser is like that. Except that it's not a stray dog he's known for a week, it's the love of his life.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Britany

    An Intensely powerful story and I'm still thinking "What do I do with this one??" 15 year old Michael Berg becomes sick and suddenly meets Hanna Schmitz, a much older woman who lives in his neighborhood. She helps him and they begin a relationship. He reads to her, and the intimacy is so strong that I'm not even sure how I should feel about it. It feels real and raw, and dripping in lust, while at the same time, it feels wrong, and I'm left feeling something hollow and wondering if the moral que An Intensely powerful story and I'm still thinking "What do I do with this one??" 15 year old Michael Berg becomes sick and suddenly meets Hanna Schmitz, a much older woman who lives in his neighborhood. She helps him and they begin a relationship. He reads to her, and the intimacy is so strong that I'm not even sure how I should feel about it. It feels real and raw, and dripping in lust, while at the same time, it feels wrong, and I'm left feeling something hollow and wondering if the moral question is bigger than the reality. Fast forward and Michael Berg finds himself on a panel listening to a court case against SS soldiers during WWII, and who should happen to walk onto the stand-- but Hanna Schmitz. Their relationship is complex and detailed. So many emotions and thoughts cross my mind, and at the end of the book, I'm still not sure how I should feel.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Maxwell

    I thought this was an interesting (if not somewhat disturbing) story, but not one that particularly blew me away. The questions of morality and complicity are intriguing as well; probably my favorite parts of the story where Michael's recollections of his experiences and trying to make sense of which were good, how he should feel about them in hindsight, etc. Glad I finally read this because it is so famous but not one that I'm in love with.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Chloe

    This is not a book that I wanted to read. So many times while reading books about the Holocaust, I feel a disconnectedness from the events. It's a mixture of two things. The first is that the sheer scope of events is just too large, too horrific, for one person's words to do justice to it. The second, and this could partly be due to the first problem, is that I detest being manipulated by my books. With a lot of Holocaust literature the villains are stock characters; the malevolent Colonel with This is not a book that I wanted to read. So many times while reading books about the Holocaust, I feel a disconnectedness from the events. It's a mixture of two things. The first is that the sheer scope of events is just too large, too horrific, for one person's words to do justice to it. The second, and this could partly be due to the first problem, is that I detest being manipulated by my books. With a lot of Holocaust literature the villains are stock characters; the malevolent Colonel with no humanity, staring cold-eyed at the prisoners before sending them off to their deaths. I find this to be a drastic over-simplification of the tragedy and one with a great potential for allowing such a dehumanizing event to occur again. It's simple to hate Count Dracula or Emperor Palpatine. They have no identity aside from their thirst for power and willingness to inflict any cruelty for any whim. They are a delightfully uncomplicated type, divorced from standard concepts of morality- purely evil. Nazis, quite understandably, get tarred in this same way. We see the pictures of bodies stacked hundreds of feet high at Bergen-Belsen, the haunted eyes staring out past barbed wire, the jackboots marching in lockstep, The Triumph of the Will- these are all images etched into the collective memory. No civilized person could do such a thing, the mind recoils. These are not people but demons brought to Earth. This is a phenomenal disservice to those who suffered so horrifically at their hands. How can we properly work to prevent such a travesty from ever occurring again when we choose to reject these people from the human community? We need to understand what can move someone to such a place that pushing the button to fill a shower with Zyklon B is just another day at the office. We need to see how easy it is to give in to what Hannah Arendt dubbed the "banality of evil." To recognize those aspects within ourselves and then to strive to work against them constantly. Allowing Nazis to become human in our mind does not excuse any of the crimes they committed. Rather it opens us up to the understanding that the same potential exists in all of us. When we understand this, that we all have the capability of becoming something monstrous simply through acquiescing to the dominant trends in society, by going with the flow, only then can we truly make strides in guaranteeing the truth of the mantra "Never Again." And it is easy, this acquiescence. It is as easy as taking a new job to avoid having a shameful secret found out at an old one. The next thing you know you're guarding prisoners at a work camp. From there, it's just another small step to selecting who gets shipped back to Auschwitz and who stays. The option for rebellion doesn't even raise its head; either you do the task or someone else will, raise a fuss and you may just find yourself on the train with them. Next step you find yourself standing outside a flaming church, hundreds of women locked inside and, though you have a key, you do nothing simply because nobody told you to and to release the women would mean to set them free (which was definitely verboten). That's all it takes. A simple abdication of responsibility and 300 women cook within the stone walls. Please believe, understanding does not equal forgiveness. It does not mean you have to like that person one iota, but an effort should be made to see how such things are possible- how each decision moved them further and further down the road to the Nuremberg Tribunal. Yet, as Schlink's main character, Hanna Schmitz, asks in especially gripping moment, "What would you have done?" How do you get off that merry-go-round when its already spinning? Delightfully, the author does not hand the reader a satisfactory answer, for what possible answer could there be? The book was not all death, doom and gloom. That's just the bit that struck me the hardest, because the author built such an affinity between myself and Hanna. Seduction via literature has to be my favorite thing ever and the early scenes where this takes place were some of the most tightly coiled eroticism I've ever had the pleasure of reading. Later, when the scope of what Hanna has done becomes clear, the reader, much like the young narrator, must reconcile his affection for her with these revelations. It's a struggle, to be sure, but one that helps make The Reader one of the most impacting books I've yet read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Priscila Jordão

    If Hanna’s illiteracy was used by the author as a metaphor to portray the ignorance that allowed an entire generation to perpetrate, or, at least, to comply with the crimes of WWII? I’m not so sure about it. After all, the germans were not more ignorant than other people at the time. Far from it. My hypothesis is that Hanna’s illiteracy represents the inability of reading behind daily events and interpreting their possible consequences, which may sometimes be catastrophic. For Hanna, there was n If Hanna’s illiteracy was used by the author as a metaphor to portray the ignorance that allowed an entire generation to perpetrate, or, at least, to comply with the crimes of WWII? I’m not so sure about it. After all, the germans were not more ignorant than other people at the time. Far from it. My hypothesis is that Hanna’s illiteracy represents the inability of reading behind daily events and interpreting their possible consequences, which may sometimes be catastrophic. For Hanna, there was nothing wrong on being a SS guard in a concentration camp. It was part of her job, as it was for thousands of others. Allegedly, they were just following the law of the time and did not dare to reflect if it was right or wrong. As people hardly ever do, at all times. The illiteracy means the absence of the power to question and to confront, a sort of numbness we feel as we follow a tedious daily routine. Hanna learned to read with Michael’s tapes. Michael read Hanna romances, but also books on ethics and moral. Therefore, she also learned with him to interpret her own life and found out her own responsibility in what happened to prisoners sent to Auschwitz. She learned further about it reading books about concentration camps. That also happened to the generation who lived during the war and took part on it. They only realized the magnitude of their doings as the war was over, as the Allies found the piles of bodies in camps, published their photos in newspapers and as germans faced their accusators. Before Hanna was released, she realized that she would not find forgiveness and understanding outside. Not even from the one who had loved her, what brought her to suicide. By the way, one thing I like about the film that is not on the book is the last scene, where Michael decides to tell his daughter the role Hanna played in his life. It represents the process of struggling to come to terms with the past (that has even a specific word in german: Vergangenheitsbewältigung!). In Germany I have seen many parents in memorials to jews and museums telling their children who Hitler was and that what he did was wrong. It is relieving to find out that they have learned that only open dialogue and discussion about what happened can avoid it from happening again. And also help people to come to terms with it. Great reading!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Stewart

    Whenever a film is coming out that is based on an acclaimed book, I try to read the book first (knowing that the reverse order almost never happens for me). The Reader is the latest such circumstance, and I'm glad I made the time for this quick read. The book centers on the reflections of a man who, as a teenager in post WW-II Germany, had a passionate love affair with a reticent and mysterious older woman. Mere months later, she disappears from his life. The rest of the book explains why, and t Whenever a film is coming out that is based on an acclaimed book, I try to read the book first (knowing that the reverse order almost never happens for me). The Reader is the latest such circumstance, and I'm glad I made the time for this quick read. The book centers on the reflections of a man who, as a teenager in post WW-II Germany, had a passionate love affair with a reticent and mysterious older woman. Mere months later, she disappears from his life. The rest of the book explains why, and the impact this revelation has on the main character. Schlink writes beautifully simple, declarative prose that is shorn of pretense. The Reader envelops us in the painfully bittersweet and conflicted memories of a man whose lover turns out to be a mirage, and the resulting guilt he feels regarding their relationship, as it existed both before and after he learns about her shameful past. This relationship is purposefully symbolic to represent for Schlink the complicated feelings of second generation Germans about the horrific legacy of the Holocaust, as perpetrated in varying degrees by their very own loved ones. Schlink adroitly raises the many thorny issues raised by this sensitive subject, and equally skillfully leaves the narrative open for his readers to puzzle over them, just as his sad, sympathetic narrator must as well.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Monika

    There will always be some substantial gaps among peoples. This gap, however, is not of caste or class or gender. It is the gap of shallowed empathetic experience. The Reader is about this gap. It is about the mystery of what something must have felt like and this 'something' in the book is Holocaust. Michael Berg, the narrator, is the 'second generation' of the Holocaust. His relationship with an older woman, one of the SS guards at the Nazi camp, is the relationship of the 'first generation' wi There will always be some substantial gaps among peoples. This gap, however, is not of caste or class or gender. It is the gap of shallowed empathetic experience. The Reader is about this gap. It is about the mystery of what something must have felt like and this 'something' in the book is Holocaust. Michael Berg, the narrator, is the 'second generation' of the Holocaust. His relationship with an older woman, one of the SS guards at the Nazi camp, is the relationship of the 'first generation' with the 'second'. The novel questions what the second generation would do. This question, like Hanna's question to the judge (". . . so what would you have done?"), lingers and floats in mid-air. The novel is packed in many intricate and complex layers. It leaves many questions that will remain unanswered; at least, in my case, the questions are still wavering around. I have no hopes of ever finding any answer. As I said, there will always be the gaps of shallowed empathetic experience.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Darlene

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. **This review contains spoilers since what I have to say about this book can't be expressed without revealing details. If you haven't read this book and wish to, you should stop reading now...** If I had read this book, 'The Reader' by Bernhard Schlink a decade ago, I would have felt much differently about it than I do reading it now. This book, a thin volume at just 218 pages, presents moral situations or dilemmas which invite the reader to consider his own feelings and beliefs. I am much less r **This review contains spoilers since what I have to say about this book can't be expressed without revealing details. If you haven't read this book and wish to, you should stop reading now...** If I had read this book, 'The Reader' by Bernhard Schlink a decade ago, I would have felt much differently about it than I do reading it now. This book, a thin volume at just 218 pages, presents moral situations or dilemmas which invite the reader to consider his own feelings and beliefs. I am much less rigid in my views now than I was even a decade ago. This story occurs in post-World War II Germany and centers around 15-year-old Michael Berg and a woman names Hanna Schmitz. On his way home from school one day, Michael became violently ill while on the street. As fate would have it, Hanna Schmitz was nearby and helped Michael get back to his home. Michael was ill with hepatitis for quite some time but when he began to feel better, he sought out Hanna to thank her for her assistance. Michael and Hanna.. a woman more than twice his age.. began a sexual relationship, creating the first of several dilemmas in this story. Although I personally did not find this aspect of the story romantic or erotic, given my understanding of adolescent hormones and adult loneliness, I wasn't at all surprised by the development of this relationship. Putting moral issues aside and looking at this relationship from a reasonable and logical viewpoint, a relationship with a person who never calls you by your given name but simply 'kid' is probably an omen. Also, any relationship which is secret is never a healthy one. secrets isolate the people involved from family, friends and peers... so this relationship, to me, was doomed from the outset. And as I expected, one day, Hanna simply disappeared.. leaving Michael with no explanation but with plenty of guilt. he couldn't stop wondering if he had done something which forced her to leave. Michael had no way of knowing it at the time but Hanna was on the run, not from him but to conceal certain truths about herself. It was years later that Michael saw Hanna again. By this time, he was studying law and his education was coinciding with Nazi War Crimes trials occurring in various towns. Michael's law seminar was encouraged to attend a trial which was taking place in a neighboring town. The students and professors would be following the trial of a group of women camp guards. The law students were ambitious in their agenda and relentless in discovering the truth. They were interested in defining.. "What IS law? Is it what is on the books, or what is actively enacted and obeyed in society?" What was occurring in Germany at that time was that the younger generation was examining and discussing the crimes perpetrated during World War II so that they could discover the degree of guilt and responsibility which should be assigned to their elders. I should mention that what the students were doing was not particularly popular nor was it welcomed by some people in society. The trials being held didn't hold much interest for some and "literally repelled others." I found this particular section of the story to be compelling and of great interest. I, of course, was not all that surprised by the citizens who wished to avoid these trials or who wanted to forget about what had happened. I was intrigued by the enthusiasm of the students who were determined to display all the facts.. withholding nothing... so that the responsibility and culpability of society could be determined. I suppose this can be explained as the zealotry that often characterizes youth. And of course, it was most likely difficult to avoid dealing with these issues completely when the country had been forced onto the world stage to account for war crimes.. crimes against humanity. But I couldn't help but think about Germany's reluctant assent to shine a light on the atrocities that had been committed and compare it to how the United States has typically handled the atrocities it has committed over the years. Usually, this country (the US) develops a sort of collective amnesia. Then we simply rewrite history so that it is clear to anyone who questions that we have a mandate bestowed upon us from God because we are an 'exceptional' or special people. It's definitely something to consider if you ever find yourself wanting to condemn the actions of another country.... When Michael Berg walked into the courtroom, he immediately noticed Hanna Schmitz. Hanna had been one of the women camp guards and now she would be expected to account for her actions. The scene was highly dramatic and I could feel the pieces of the puzzle which had been Hanna Schmitz, begin to fall into place for Michael. Her behaviors... her reticence to talk about herself and her life.. began to make sense for the first time.But Hanna was holding tightly to one more secret... a secret she would rather die for than have it exposed to the world. Michael finally put the missing pieces together.. her running away, her inability to stay with any one job for long and even her recruitment by the Nazis to guard women prisoners at Auschwitz ... all of this had been to keep the fact that she was illiterate from the world. I have to admit that although the clues were there in the story, I had not guessed that Hanna's big secret was her illiteracy. Up until that big reveal, Hanna had not been a sympathetic nor an understandable character. But when I realized that she was illiterate, I couldn't help but feel compassion for her. Perhaps she was not deserving of compassion because any sympathy shown to her was far more than she had demonstrated to the women prisoners whose lives she controlled. But illiteracy has a personal meaning for me. Several years ago, after the death of a family member, our family discovered that this family member had been illiterate . He had been able to keep this secret through the diligence and aid from his wife for more than 50 years. It was a shocking revelation and all I could think about was the huge amount of energy he must have expended daily to hide this from his family, his co-workers.. from the world. His obvious shame and humiliation were all I could think about and it broke my heart. And Hanna's illiteracy... it was something I could not only imagine but feel a personal connection to. I believe Michael felt that sense of compassion for Hanna as well.. although he felt it wasn't an excuse for her actions. Instead of reporting this discovery to the judges, he allowed her to keep her secret.. even though it meant she would spend a much longer time in prison. Did Michael do the right thing? I think in realizing that allowing Hanna to maintain her privacy and dignity was more important than potentially having her prison sentence reduced. I have been thinking about this story a great deal.. even though I finished reading it days ago. To me, the story of Michael Berg and Hanna Schmitz was not simply their singular, personal story. What occurred in their lives seemed somehow symbolic of the tragedy of a nation... of the world... tragic events which the entire world talks about, writes about and tries to make sense of more than seven decades later.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Arun Divakar

    The concept of love never ceases to amaze. From the cradle to the grave, a human being is guided,driven, motivated or annihilated because of it. Even when the presence of this feeling is what makes life tick for all humanity, we tend to call the romantic variant as 'falling in' love. This has always seemed ironical to me for if this feeling was as spiritually uplifting as it is believed to be, why don't we call it 'rising in' love ? Ah ! But I digress from the point here ! This book is fuelled by The concept of love never ceases to amaze. From the cradle to the grave, a human being is guided,driven, motivated or annihilated because of it. Even when the presence of this feeling is what makes life tick for all humanity, we tend to call the romantic variant as 'falling in' love. This has always seemed ironical to me for if this feeling was as spiritually uplifting as it is believed to be, why don't we call it 'rising in' love ? Ah ! But I digress from the point here ! This book is fuelled by an affair. The love contained in the plot made me plod through the dusty attic of my mind from where the lines above clattered out. The plot centers around the affair of a younger man with an older woman. An affair ruled only by sex and sex alone. During the adolescent phase, the thoughts of love are always entwined with lust in the mind. Like copulating serpents they lie and it is a futile task trying to make out where one ends and the other begins. The journey of Michael Berg through the curves of Hanna Schmitz's anatomy is also one of self discovery for him. In the loss of innocence lies the keys to his future and he is at the verge of getting to those keys when the short and stormy affair blows out. The pain of withdrawal while at first unbearable, slowly becomes a dull ache. With the passage of years there comes a clinical detachment while seeing the ones we loved and lost long ago. The beauty of the language can be acutely felt when the author describes that memories of long ago stay behind like a city as a train pulls out of a station. The memories are there, behind you but in the passage of the train they disappear behind a bend in the track. The story changes lanes here and does a total flip and from a loved-and-lost tale, it becomes an intricately plotted tale of human morality and guilt. In a particular passage which depicts a court scene, I was reminded of a couple of lines from a Steig Larsson book There are no innocents, only varying levels of guilt . Through those court room scenes we are asked the fundamental questions about morals and principles, about guilt and remorse, of crime and punishment and other such things.While you are made fully aware that the accused while not being fully innocent does not deserve what comes to them. To sum it all up, this is an extremely tragic tale. The love in here is like the strong gust of wind that threatens to uproot us while standing on a ledge.For the characters in here though, the wind becomes a little too strong to bear ! Recommended.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Friederike Knabe

    The topic of the Holocaust is raised almost every day in some manner. Many books have been written about the topic. Whether in studies, documentaries or fictional accounts, finger-pointing at the perpetrators of the crimes against millions has been part of the process of coming to terms with the Nazi atrocities. For Imre Kertesz, renowned author and Nobel laureate of 2002, there is no other topic. Yet, when he reflects on the traumatic impact of Auschwitz, "he dwells on the vitality and creativi The topic of the Holocaust is raised almost every day in some manner. Many books have been written about the topic. Whether in studies, documentaries or fictional accounts, finger-pointing at the perpetrators of the crimes against millions has been part of the process of coming to terms with the Nazi atrocities. For Imre Kertesz, renowned author and Nobel laureate of 2002, there is no other topic. Yet, when he reflects on the traumatic impact of Auschwitz, "he dwells on the vitality and creativity of those living today" and "thus, paradoxically, not on the past but the future." Bernhard Schlink, professor of law and practicing judge in Germany, born in 1944, has attempted to capture the struggles of his generation in confronting the past and the future in "The Reader". "Pointing at the guilty party did not free us from shame", his narrator and protagonist contemplates, "but at least it overcame the suffering we went through on account of it". The usually unambiguous distinction between villain and victim has facilitated the identification with those who lost their lives or suffered under the Nazi atrocities while all scorn, abhorrence and hate was piled on the perpetrators. Until recently, few books have focused on the after-war generation. While growing up, the children had to come to terms with the, often sudden, exposure of their parents' active or passive participation in the crimes of the Nazi regime. "The Reader", set in post-war Germany and against the backdrop of the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials of the mid-sixties, takes this new and, for our generations, important angle: in the form of the fictional memoir of Michael Berg. Michael, while not refuting guilt, shame, and atonement, is led to examine and dissect the complexity of inter-generational conflicts in the context of his personal experiences. Like Schlink himself, he grapples with the fundamental problem of the relationships between these two generations. Michael recounts the most important stages in his life, starting with experiences long passed in his youth. While his account follows the chronology of events, he progressively interleaves retrospective reflections on his past conduct, questioning his conflicting emotions - his behaviour. The story starts with Michael's first, secret, love affair at age 15 with a woman more than twice his age. The blossoming erotic relationship strengthens his self-worth and confidence yet, at the same time, increasingly isolating him from his family and peers. Hanna Schmitz, of whose circumstances and background Michael knew very little, was affectionate and standoffish at the same time, prone to abrupt mood swings. The young lover is completely captivated and eager to please. He is the "Reader", in German "Vorleser" is a person who reads aloud to an audience. At her insistence he reads his books to her and it becomes an important element of their shared intimacy. When she disappears one day without any warning, her loss leaves him devastated and scarred for life. He can only seek the reasons in his own actions. Seeing Hanna again years later and in unanticipated surroundings, triggers a flood of questions about the person he loved and thought he knew. Her behaviour raises many questions and Michael discovers a long secret that puts in doubt the facts as they are exposed. He also wrestles with himself over his own inaction when confronted with choices. "What would you have done?" Although addressed to the judge by the defendant, this question hangs over Michael, as it does over his whole generation. It encapsulates the primary dilemma of the child-parent generations relationships. Finally, writing the story of his life, drafting and redrafting it in his head until it is in a publishable form, is seen as a chance for his own recovery and for living his own life. The Reader, while a work of fiction, is deeply anchored in the personal experiences of the author and symbolic for his generation. His spare and unemotional language underlines the impression of a biographical investigation and is used quite deliberately. The English translation captures the tone and style amazingly well. Reading this book should not be an "easy pleasure" as some reviewers have suggested. The Reader covers difficult and complex terrain in a way that it forces the reader to reflect and question their own position long afterwards. Although written directly for a German audience of Schlink's and my generation, the novel, surprisingly, has attracted world-wide attention. While reviews and reactions among readers are highly diverse and even contradictory, it should be read by as many people as possible and with the care the subject matter deserves.

  28. 5 out of 5

    RJ

    A meaningful plot summary would undoubtedly set off spoiler alarms, and one might best enjoy this novel with no preconceived notions, although it seems safe to say the story begins as a relationship forms between a young boy and an older woman, and it ends many years later. The matter-of-fact prose keeps the focus squarely on the story which can be interpreted metaphorically.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Vimal Thiagarajan

    Aside from throwing light on lesser known post-war ramifications of the Nazi regime, this short, compact book surprised me with the number of moral, ethical and behavioral conundrums that it posed. These conundrums, if explored do not lead to answers but might lead to a sense of improved understanding - an understanding that is not limited to Nazi crimes, but can be applied to a whole host of mass crimes and post-war genocides where exploration isn't even an option. Bernhard Schlink's prose is s Aside from throwing light on lesser known post-war ramifications of the Nazi regime, this short, compact book surprised me with the number of moral, ethical and behavioral conundrums that it posed. These conundrums, if explored do not lead to answers but might lead to a sense of improved understanding - an understanding that is not limited to Nazi crimes, but can be applied to a whole host of mass crimes and post-war genocides where exploration isn't even an option. Bernhard Schlink's prose is spare and austere, not even a single sentence is wasted in building any unnecessary or irrelevant imagery or dialogue. So altogether the book does make a sound impact in the short time it takes one to read it. Couldn't resist watching the movie after reading it, and I'd say its one of those rare movies that are rendered from the book with remarkably high fidelity. And needless to say Kate Winslet aced it!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Connie G

    "The Reader" focuses on the generation born after World War II in Germany dealing with their knowledge of the horrors of the Holocaust, and realizing that people of their parents' generation had a role in carrying out the atrocities. They may find that they loved or thought highly of people who were part of the Nazi machine. Michael Berg is the narrator of this fictional memoir which opens when he first meets Hanna Schmitz. Michael is 15 years old, and Hanna is in her 30s when they become involve "The Reader" focuses on the generation born after World War II in Germany dealing with their knowledge of the horrors of the Holocaust, and realizing that people of their parents' generation had a role in carrying out the atrocities. They may find that they loved or thought highly of people who were part of the Nazi machine. Michael Berg is the narrator of this fictional memoir which opens when he first meets Hanna Schmitz. Michael is 15 years old, and Hanna is in her 30s when they become involved in an intense, volatile sexual relationship. Hanna also enjoys having Michael read aloud to her. When she leaves town without any warning, Michael blames himself, wondering what he did wrong. He can never form a good relationship in the future because Hanna is always in the back of his mind. Years later, Michael sees Hanna again in troubling circumstances. He sees another side of Hanna--a woman who has been hiding many secrets from her past. After many more years pass, Michael decides to sort things out in his mind and write down his memories. He is part of the after-war generation whose lives have become wrapped up in the previous generation's secrets, guilt, and wish for forgiveness. "The Reader" is an excellent short book written in spare language. This is the second time I've read this thought-provoking story, and each reading has left me feeling disturbed and unsettled.

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