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Der Vorleser by Bernhard Schlink
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Der Vorleser (original 1995; edition 1997)

by Bernhard Schlink

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
10,199328281 (3.7)357
Member:edwinbcn
Title:Der Vorleser
Authors:Bernhard Schlink (Author)
Info:Zürich: Diogenes (1997)
Collections:Read but unowned, Read All Time, Read in 1998
Rating:****
Tags:German Literature, Romane

Work details

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink (1995)

  1. 112
    The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (bookcrazyblog, lucyknows)
    bookcrazyblog: Though book thief is understood to be Teen-read, it is deep and enthralling. If you liked The Reader for anything beyond its sensuality in the first part, you will love Book Thief
    lucyknows: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak may linked with The Reader by Bernhard Schlink using the themes of reading, Nazi Germany and death. You could also pair it with the graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman. Atonement by Ian McEwan could work as well because of the young protagonists, war, and reading.… (more)
  2. 20
    In My Brother's Shadow: A Life and Death in the SS by Uwe Timm (Tinwara)
    Tinwara: Autobiographical account that also deals with the post war generation in Germany, trying to come to an understanding of how loved persons can make the wrong decisions.
  3. 10
    Without Blood by Alessandro Baricco (2810michael)
  4. 10
    Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum (bnbookgirl)
    bnbookgirl: One of my top ten fav's.
  5. 10
    Let Me Go by Helga Schneider (Booksloth)
  6. 00
    Julia by Otto de Kat (charl08)
    charl08: Both novels deal with the after effects of Nazism, felt many years after the war ends.
  7. 00
    The Travels of Daniel Ascher by Déborah Lévy-Bertherat (OneOfDem)
  8. 00
    A Child of Hitler by Alfons Heck (AlisonY)
    AlisonY: Written by a German child who became a high-ranking leader of the Hitler Youth, this autobiography picks up on the theme from 'The Reader' about what made some people join the Nazi party
  9. 11
    Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton (1Owlette)
  10. 00
    Before I Knew Him by Anna Ralph (1Owlette)
  11. 11
    Enduring Love by Ian McEwan (lucyknows)
    lucyknows: The Reader could be successfully paired with Enduring Love for English Studies. In addition either book could also be be paired with the film The Talented Mr Ripley under the theme of obsession
  12. 23
    Close Range by Annie Proulx (1Owlette)
    1Owlette: Although very different in many ways, [The Reader] and [Brokeback Mountain] are both similarly devastating and concentrated in their impact.
  13. 01
    Berlin by Pierre Frei (Johanna11)
    Johanna11: Although the books are very different in many respects, both are about Berlin after WWII and about Germans during WWII and after.
  14. 01
    Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel (Cecilturtle)
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» See also 357 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 285 (next | show all)
review pending ( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 20, 2016 |

“There's no need to talk about it, because the truth of what one says lies in what one does.”

Another excellent book from Oprah's Book Club!

What stands out the most about this book is the beautifully poetic, somewhat haunting, clearly passionately felt writing style. The writer uses short chapters and the tone never alters, following the reader through the pages, heavy on reminiscing about the past, memories, and sometimes veering off into an almost dreamy viewpoint as the scenes take place. A writing style such as this serves such a tragic sort of story perfectly.

‘The Reader’ begins immediately on the cliff of falling into the relationship that is the main purpose of the book. At first glance it would seem like it would only be a minor fling, a sexual awakening for the fifteen year old protagonist. This is further hinted out by the moodiness and secrecy from the woman he falls in love with – but surprisingly his love lives on long after the relationship dies, injecting a strange, demented sort of romanticism to the novel. Even at the end, when the last pages were closed by a teary, final scene, the relationship will always be clearly important for the protagonist. It helped develop his life when he was on the brink of becoming a man, shadowing all future relationships and ambitions. Even if it is over, the foundation is cemented.

This isn’t a simple romantic wonder, though, as the layers show how wrong it all is, was, and can’t have any choice but to be. The trial was one of the best parts of the novel, revealing a secret I had already guessed on while dishing out atrocities I shuddered to learn.

What made this book even more different was the connection after the trial. It shows that, despite his learning of these secrets – whether they are awful or not – that the magic conjured when they met still continued working within his psyche.

Of course a book called ‘The Reader’ would have something to do with books. On the surface the book takes a love of reading and makes it grand, but later shows the point isn't some hypothetical, magical enjoyment of books, but is instead showing how easier it is to get buried by ignorance. Enjoyment of books gets tossed out the windows as irrelevant in light of consequences, to in the end come forth as an enjoyable delight all over again.

There was this unusual view the protagonist felt about certain sorts of novels, which I don’t necessarily agree with. Some of the experimental literature has made the most shocking, but positive, impact on a generation.

“To me it was obvious that experimental literature was experimenting with the reader, and Hanna didn’t need that and neither did I.”

Overall ‘The Reader’ shows how powerful a story can be, how it can touch the heart no matter how cold or dead the heart may seem to others, how it can revitalize, loan life in the absence of it. There was a strange love, an almost uncomfortable and somewhat lunatic connection, that illustrates how powerful human connection can become and how it can overshadow development. Even with strong emotions, even if the relationship was not pure nor good, we read and feel as the protagonist keeps casting quick glances in the past while he forges his steps into the future.
( )
  ErinPaperbackstash | Jun 14, 2016 |
Review: The Reader by Bernhard Schlink.

I thought the book was thought provoking. It was well written story, based on the main theme of the concerns of postwar Germany legacy of the Holocaust. It’s about those who were adults during the war, and how the next generation felt and reacted to individuals who participated in the Holocaust such as a child growing up in a family with parents and grandparents who did cruel and unjust things or didn’t lift a hand to help the victim’s during the war. I can imagine how confusing it must have been because just reading this story has me asking all different questions, feeling a jumble of emotions and how this book would affect me one way on some pages and another on future pages. However, by the end of the book I thought really hard about the story and have reached my own opinion as every other reader has.

The first part of the story I envisioned that Michael did not have a strong bonding with his parents and lack of communication and understanding led him at the age of fifteen into the arms of a Hanna, a thirty-six year old women who worked as a tram conductor. I felt the love relationship was out of character and made me feel bitter towards Hanna. (that is probably the mother instinct in me that caused that felling) For me it was a problematic element in the novel that never got any recognition. After awhile Michael would say something that made Hanna angry and he was always the one to ask for forgiveness and feel a strong regret for hurting her. When he started to hang around the pool with his friends and flirt with the girls Hanna became upset to the point that one day she just quits her job and moves away without a word to Michael. This hurt Michael tremendously and it took some time to get over her and then he went to college to become a lawyer.

Near the end of his college days Michael’s professor had his class go through a seminar within a court room watching the dynamics of cases against the Holocaust criminals. To Michael’s surprise Hanna is one of the prisoners on trial. At this point he claims he has no feeling for her and listens to the horrific charges against her. (my feelings at this point about Hanna were confusing) When she was sentence he just watched them take her away. However, Michael knew a secret about Hanna that might have help her case. After mixed emotions he decides to bury it in the past.

The remaining of the story was about Michael struggles about past and present feelings he was going through about Hanna. This is where I felt she had been in control of his life since the affair at fifteen and ruin his chances of any happiness. His feelings of not helping her at trial led him to send Hanna tapes of his narrating different stories from books to her but he was committed not to go and see her. Then after eighteen years he receives a letter from the warden of the prison concerning Hanna…..

I enjoyed the story but I felt Michael was a victim of Hanna’s even in his adulthood…
( )
  Juan-banjo | May 31, 2016 |
It seems like there's a lot packed into this short novel. It raises very important philosophical questions that Schlink's generation -- children of Nazis, Nazi sympathizers, and compatriots who looked the other way -- in Germany had to grapple with. What do they owe the outside world? What responsibility do they bear? How do they reconcile the parents they love with the crimes they committed? What reckoning is required in the courts and just as importantly in the cultural consciousness?

But the novel doesn't answer any. If this had been a novel about emotional conflict, it would have been effective: here are these questions, here are the reasons I'm conflicted. But instead it's just ambivalent. It raises the questions only to give them little consideration and certainly no resolution or meaningful thought. It doesn't say anything.

Or at least I could not determine what Schlink meant to say. There's one throwaway line about Hanna being "brutal" that you might think means something, but there are also numerous instances of him wanting to wipe away her crimes and culpability because she was illiterate (which is so dumb I can't even interact with that idea, honestly).

You could see what you want to see in this novel (for instance, pedophiles who think Lolita glorifies the crime or teenagers who admire Patrick Bateman) but I could not see what Schlink meant except for ambivalence. It's an interesting book for readers to consider, but it isn't a meeting of the minds with the author, and that disappointed me. ( )
  sparemethecensor | Apr 11, 2016 |
******* Contains spoilers*****
This story if full of controversial if not disturbing topics. I tried to look at it in the literary form despite this. I felt the writing was simplistic and sometimes repetitive, but also gave good imagery.

What bothered me about the 15 year old relationship with the 36 year old besides the obvious facts of morals is that Schlink never really gives the narrator a self realization on how wrong it was of her to seduce him as a child. I know he viewed himself not as such, but maybe the authors way of getting this across is his life long struggle with his relationship, but I wanted him to realize how wrong it was and him to be angry with her for her part with the holocaust. ( )
  brandymuss | Mar 15, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 285 (next | show all)
What starts out as a story of sexual awakening, something that Colette might have written, a ''Cherie and the Last of Cherie'' set in Germany after the war, is suddenly darkened by history and tragic secrets. In the end, one is both moved and disturbed, saddened and confused, and, above all, powerfully affected by a tale that seems to bear with it the weight of truth.
 
Schlink's daring fusion of 19th-century post-romantic, post-fairy-tale models with the awful history of the 20th century makes for a moving, suggestive and ultimately hopeful work, an original contribution to the impossible genre with the questionable name of Vergangenheitsbewaltigung, ''coming to terms with the past.''
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bernhard Schlinkprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Janeway, Carol BrownTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kirchner, Ernst LudwigCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lien, ToroddTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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When I was fifteen, I got hepatitis.
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Being ill when you are a child or growing up is such an enchanted interlude!
When rescue came, it was almost an assault. The woman seized my arm and pulled me through the dark entryway into the courtyard.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
A parable of German guilt and atonement and a love story of stunning power.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375707972, Paperback)

Oprah Book Club® Selection, February 1999: Originally published in Switzerland, and gracefully translated into English by Carol Brown Janeway, The Reader is a brief tale about sex, love, reading, and shame in postwar Germany. Michael Berg is 15 when he begins a long, obsessive affair with Hanna, an enigmatic older woman. He never learns very much about her, and when she disappears one day, he expects never to see her again. But, to his horror, he does. Hanna is a defendant in a trial related to Germany's Nazi past, and it soon becomes clear that she is guilty of an unspeakable crime. As Michael follows the trial, he struggles with an overwhelming question: What should his generation do with its knowledge of the Holocaust? "We should not believe we can comprehend the incomprehensible, we may not compare the incomparable.... Should we only fall silent in revulsion, shame, and guilt? To what purpose?"

The Reader, which won the Boston Book Review's Fisk Fiction Prize, wrestles with many more demons in its few, remarkably lucid pages. What does it mean to love those people--parents, grandparents, even lovers--who committed the worst atrocities the world has ever known? And is any atonement possible through literature? Schlink's prose is clean and pared down, stripped of unnecessary imagery, dialogue, and excess in any form. What remains is an austerely beautiful narrative of the attempt to breach the gap between Germany's pre- and postwar generations, between the guilty and the innocent, and between words and silence. --R. Ellis

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:10 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Schoolboy Michael Berg, 15, meets an older woman and they have an affair, which she breaks off and disappears. Seven years later Berg, now a law student attending a trial, sees her in the dock, accused in a crime dating back to World War II and the death camp at Auschwitz.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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