Reviews

The Reader

Norbert Ruebsaat

My friend wrote that the first part of Bernhard Schlink's The Reader (Vintage) is "brilliantly erotic, hauntingly poetic and very romantic." Part Two, my friend wrote, is "a hideous trial of Germans by Germans. Post-war youth condemned their parents to shame, not only for what was done during the war, but also for tolerating the perpetrators in their midst after 1945. The problems seem similar to those South Africa has been facing recently, those addressed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission." Part Three explores the possibilities of mercy and forgiveness. I quote my friend at length because we talked about The Reader at length: it is the kind of book that calls forth long conversation. It tells the story of Michael, a post-World War II German fifteen-year-old who falls in love with Hanna, who was an adult during the war, and who then suddenly disappears, only to reappear under ethically different circumstances in Michael's adult life. I urge this book on anyone who likes to have conversations. I read it in one sitting, which is unusual for me, but it was about love and justice and when those two species of thought and experience come together, I hold my breath and then remember to breathe again, hold my breath and then remember to breathe again, as if I were jogging, which is also rare for me.

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Norbert Ruebsaat

Norbert Ruebsaat has written many articles for Geist. He lived in Vancouver and taught at Simon Fraser University.


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