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Follow her as she prepares and partakes the "bread for the stomach" in http://beforesixdiet.blogspot.com/ . And while you are full at it, she offers you the "bread for the soul" in her travels by foot and by thoughts in http://footandfire.blogspot.com/ Happy Reading!

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Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Reader

The Reader
By Bernhard Schlink
218 pages, Novel
Translated from German to English by Carol Brown Janeway

Fluid storytelling should be the foremost trait of a novel and this is what the author delivers in The Reader. I have  seen the movie a long time ago and I must say that one should also read the book. While the development of the story is as entertaining as the movie offers, the latter lacks the subcontextual meaning of the story that the book tries to present to us readers. Watching entertains but reading entertains and makes readers ponder.

How do we come to terms with our shame? This book explores many shades of shame from the personal level, the shame of having a sexual relationship with a grown-up and keeping it from everyone, and only giving that relationship a "niche" rather than a "place" in his life on the part of Michael (Michael and Hanna had a sexual relationship when the former was only 15 years old while the latter was 36 years old), and the long-held shame of illiteracy on the part of Hanna (who chose to own up murder rather than be exposed as illiterate), and on a grander level, the shame of having German parents serving during the The Third Reich on the part of the children of the next generations.

I will not labor in telling a summary of the story here but I have just to tell you that I finished this story in a day because I can't put it down. Also, I just want to add, that this story is on how Michael examines his relationship with Hanna, how it affected him and how he came to terms with it is supposed to be a parallel as to how the new generation struggle with their past. It is not a very tight parallel but the message has been clearly sent to us readers.

The first two are the story, the vehicle in telling the message while the last one is the important message addressed to present German generation and the next ones who will always struggle with their parent's past. However, I strongly believe that the story has universal message rather than a message which is only particularly sent to German generation alone.

Here are the passages I deemed important that I highlighted:

Father to Son Michael Berg: "No, your problem has no appealing solution. Of course, one must act if the situation as you describe it is one of accrued or inherited responsibility. If one knows what is good for another person who in turns is blind to it, then one must try to open his eyes. One has to leave him the last word, but one must talk to him and not someone else behind his back." p.143

Being a legal historian: "Now escape involves not just running away, but arriving somewhere. And the past I arrived in as legal historian was no less alive than the present. It is also not true, as outsiders might assume, that one can merely observe the richness of life in the past, whereas one can participate in the present. Doing history means building bridges between the past and the present, observing both banks of the river, taking an active part on both sides." p.180

On Berg's research on Law in the Third Reich: "Here, escape is not a preoccupation with the past, but a determined focus on the present and the future that is blind to the legacy of the past which brands us and with which we must live." pp180-1

On Hanna's first scribble: "I thought that if the right time gets missed, if one has refused or been refused something for too long, it's too late, even if it is finally tackled with energy and recieved with joy." pp188-9

Hanna as to why she accepted murder during the trial: "When no one understands you, then no one can call you to account. Not even the court could call me to account. But the dead can. They understand. They don't even have to have been there, but if they were, they understand even better. Here in prison they were with me a lot. They came every night, whether I wanted them or not. Before the trial I could still chase them away when they wanted to come."  pp198-9