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Reading and Misreading The Reader

Jeffrey I. Roth
Law and Literature
Vol. 16, No. 2 (Summer 2004), pp. 163-177
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of the Cardozo School of Law
DOI: 10.1525/lal.2004.16.2.163
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Page Count: 16
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Reading and Misreading The Reader
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Bernhard Schlink's popular novel, The Reader, set in post-World War II Germany, deals with love and remorse, guilt and responsibility. The narrator, as a teenager, falls in love with an older woman who served as a prison camp guard during the war. He relates the events of her life and war crimes trial with understanding for her plight and an inability to condemn her. Some charge this sympathetic portrayal mitigates the guilt of all Nazi collaborators, but this is a misreading of the novel. The Reader tells the story of Germany's “second generation” coming to terms with their parents' conduct and their country's policies during World War II. It is a novel that seeks to uncover and assess guilt rather than to hide or attenuate it.

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