The Reader, by Bernhard Schlink
When I was fifteen, I got hepatitis. It started in the fall and lasted until spring. As the old year darkened and turned colder, I got weaker and weaker.
The Reader, by Bernhard Schlink, is the story of 15 years old Michael Berg who falls madly in love with Hanna, a woman more than twice his age. Their relationship is neither unique nor a normal one. They spend their time together reading. Michael reads to Hanna. At first I thought that was a mere action the author introduced, to give a meaning to the relationship besides sexual attraction. But as I kept turning the book’s pages I realized the act of reading is Schlink’s whole purpose, the reason for the character’s evolution, the explanation for the person who he will become in the future and his way of bearing with life when everything is messed up but the letters and sentences written on paper.
Michael and Hanna’s story ends, and the character grows old leaving apart his young and sensitive self to become a cold, heartless adult. Or so it seems, until years later, -him being a law student- he runs into her while she’s being accused for being a Nazi official. Here Schlink opens up the character again for us to see all he thinks, all he feels. We can’t avoid feeling close to him, feeling identified.
The author, Bernhard Schlink, ©Bookfans
It made me think about the lost of innocence and how that changes us as a person, about the inexistence of pure happiness, or pain, or pleasure. The moral exploration of the character leads eventually to us.
What would you do, if you knew someone’s most dark secret was going to save them but they would rather be unfairly condemned rather than ashamed forever? I recommend this book to anyone who doesn’t expect tons of action, but more thinking. To anyone who wants to physically put down a book but not mentally.
Finally, I want to mention there’s a film of The Reader, which I haven’t yet seen, and as always I’d suggest all of you first to read the book and then watch the movie, because the magic of books can’t be explained, not even by the best films.
“I took all the blame. I admitted mistakes I hadn’t made, intentions I’d never had. Whenever she turned cold and hard, I begged her to be good to me again, to forgive me and love me. Sometimes I had the feeling that she hurt herself when she turned cold and rigid. As if what she was yearning for was the warmth of my apologies, protestations, and entreaties. Sometimes I thought she just bullied me. But either way, I had no choice.”