(German, 1944– )
Bernhard Schlink is Professor of Law at Berlin University. The Reader (1997) tells the story of a 15-year-old boy who is helped and then seduced by an older woman, a tram conductor. Years later, when the boy is a law student, he finds his lover on trial for crimes committed as a concentration camp guard, and eventually he comes to understand the shameful secret which has shaped her life. This is a passionate love story, shining with the particular luminosity of first-time experiences related through the longing and nostalgia of later years. It is also a brilliant exploration of a younger generation's reaction to the Holocaust. Schlink compellingly dramatizes the near-impossibility of understanding motives, and the facility with which blame is dispensed. The psychological insight is acute, the writing elegantly understated, leaving the reader at times as uncertain of the truth as is the narrator himself.
Primo Levi, W. G. Sebald, Alain-Fournier JR