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Kell

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

How would you rate this book? (Dont forget to say why in the thread!)  

2 members have voted

  1. 1. How would you rate this book? (Dont forget to say why in the thread!)

    • 5/5 - Top-notch reading!
    • 4/5 - Excellent
    • 3/5 - Pretty good
    • 2/5 - OK, but nothing to write home about
    • 1/5 - Dull as ditchwater
    • 0/5 - Utter dross!
      0


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Time for another question from the back of the book:

Michael suggests reasons why Hanna became a guard and for her selection of girls to read to her. How convincing are his arguments? How can we explain why ordinary people commit atrocities without resorting to calling the monsters?

I think his explanation of making their last weeks more bearable is as convincing an explanation as any really. Although Hanna always seems distant, this could just as easily be a defense mechanism

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Ok - knew about the Milgram experiment - but still feel unconvinced by Micheal's (Schlink's) arguments. Dont forget avout my remarks about 'privilged' inmates either. They had the privilige - Einsatzgruppe in Auschwitz Gruppe - those inmates entrusted to 'feed'the creamatoria being an extreme example - prililige being aderquate food. Once they ended their time of duty they formed the first consignment fotr the next 'Einsatzgruppe'

Edited by sirinrob

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inital thoughts are Micheal's argument she fell into the SS (gravity is a wonderful force :D I dont buy - she chose to enlist- we dont know under circumstances exactly. On the face it her choosing the girls to read to her was a humane act, but in my view was whitewash as she swore them to secrecy why she selected them and she knew they would be sent to Auschwitz. :D

 

Yep yep yep - don't want to sound like your cheerleader but I 100% agree with what you are saying.

 

Hanna strikes me as the kind of person who KNEW what she was getting herself into, but somehow it appears to me to Schlink changed his mind half way through, trying to "fish" for a reason why she did what she did.

 

Let's face it - in all aspects of life we will come across people who will do something "just because". They do not worry about the why's and what's, they just get on with it and some "grow" a conscience because they feel it is the "right" thing to do.

 

I am sorry but if you work in a Concentration Camp you KNOW what is going on. Maybe, just maybe Hanna (or rather Schlink) tried to convince herself that she was not all bad by "choosing" the Reader's to make their last months more bearable...

 

 

Anyhow, I ramble - To tell you the truth, I enjoy the discussions about the book more than the book itself

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How would you describe the tone and style of Bernhard Schlink’s writing in part one of the book? How does it differ from the second and third parts? What effect does the difference achieve?

 

I think part one was the best bit of the book, parts two and three got steadily more dull for me, and I found my attention wandering when I was reading them. I hated that I felt forced to sympathise with Hanna, even though realistically she did bad things knowingly and didn't deserve the sympathy. I also felt like I was meant to pity Michael the entire book through even though he was not a likeable character and was incredibly selfish.

 

The relationship between Hanna and Michael begins with an act of kindness on her part but we later learn of her involvement in the concentration camps. Does Hanna engage your sympathy at any point after you found out she was a guard?

 

No, not really. I mean I can understand being embarrased about not being able to read or write, but would I knowingly send people off to be killed rather than be found out for it, absolutely not. And as she showed in the end, it wasn't that difficult for her to learn to read and write, so why couldn't she have done that much sooner? I did not find her to be a likeable character, and I never really felt any regret from her, rather it was Michael that tried to explain it all away at the end.

 

Michael suggests reasons why Hanna became a guard and for her selection of girls to read to her. How convincing are his arguments? How can we explain why ordinary people commit atrocities without resorting to calling them monsters?

 

See above answer about the illiteracy thing. At the end of the day, I do think Hanna was a monster in a way, she let all of those women die, and for what? I really can't think of any excuse for it other than her own pride and selfishness.

 

This was a tricky one to designate to a poll place. The book is powerful and thought provoking, and controversial in many ways, but I didn't enjoy it.

 

I would still recommend it be read though! It is one of those texts that alters not so much your viewpoint as your perspective, giving this vast and overwhelming subject matter a close to and tangible human face.

 

I completely agree Chrissy, I didn't enjoy it, but it certainly has made me think.

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Tough question Kell .....

 

I remember being fascinated in psyc class when we learned about Milgram's experiments. His tests revealed that it could have been that the accomplices were merely following orders, despite violating their deepest moral beliefs... and certainly when one is employed at a concentration camp it HAS GOT to go against one's moral belief system. It just HAS TO! BUT .....we know that Hanna CHOSE to enlist, we know that she has a secret she protects at all costs, we know she has a dominent personality, that she is emotionally detached and is verbally and physically abusive at times. I just can't decide if choosing the girls to read to her was a humane act, or not. I think protecting her illiteracy was her defense mechanism ...it's what allowed her to think that sending these girls off to their death beds was somehow acceptable. And protecting one's own weaknesses at the expense of others lives ... just can't be considered a humane act.

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Well, there's time for another question before the month comes to a close, so here's another one from the back of the book:

Michael refers to the many images that have been produced of the camps, particularly in films. Is there a danger that the continued exposure of Holocaust images lessens their impact until they become frozen into clich

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the problem with images, especially if the same ones are repeatly shown, is people beccome desensitized, which is the danger which is being alluded to here. There is also the problem of selectivity in which images are taken/shown. There can be political motives behind the selectivity.

 

Films tend to in my view open to bias - often protraying events from the Victor's point of view.

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In addition I have not responded much as the replies would be an essay - which many on here, in my view ,do not like.

 

I'm not quite sure what you mean by that? Surely these threads are for discussion.. whilst some may wish to make only a few comments, I'm sure many others enjoy reading the more in-depth posts too. No?

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Hey, if it's relevant to the discussion, go right ahead - it can only bring more to the discussion and possibly even more points to further look into! :D

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Right folks , i'[ve looked back through the posts and spotted some loose ends I left. additionally I'll try to adress the 'why do ordinary people commit atrocities without being labelled monsters' question.

 

 

From the start it is apparent that Hannah lives in her own world, possibly as away of coping with her impaired literacy. As the novel progresses she seems to sink into this alternative world more and more. The prison governess indicates this when Micheal visits. In my view Hannah does not show any remorse at all, just simply withdraws till her only recourse is to commit suicide.

 

Both Micheal and Hannah are emotionally impaired - Hannah probably is because its a way of defending herself assuming we accept her impaired literacy (I'm not convinced on that). Micheal is emotionally impaired even before he meets Hannah as the monologue in Chapter 5 shows thinking something which wasnt approved off by his mother was a sin etc etc. Hannah's behaviour reinforces his feeling of shame. Later on he makes a statement that even as a grown man he still needs to make up to the world and the woman after been with her. He never seems to grow up. He only visits the prison because the governess more or less tells him to, he only visits the daughter because Hannah via her will tells him to. Another facet of this with Micheal is the circumstances under which he marries Gertrud.

 

....'She [Gertrud] was also studying law; we studied together, and began our clerking together. We got marrried when Gertrud got pregnant'.

 

The unspoken implication of the last sentence in that quote is if Gertrud hadnt got pregnant then Micheal wouldn't have married her imo.

 

continued in next post......

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continuation.....

 

Turning attention now to the atrocity question. This difficult to answer, because it depends on how you define atrocity and monster. Atrocity is fairly easy to deal with - an act of wanton cruelty, monster is abit less tractable. A working defintion could be a person who performs an act of inhuman or horrible cruelty. I'm not entirely happy with that, but its a start.

 

The anti-semitism, racisism inherent in the Nazi ideology didn't suddenly come into being with the rise of the Nazi party. Many of the concepts had beentaken up before the first World War, albeit by extreme elements of German society. After the First World War, many of the basic concepts became ingrained into society. The defeat of the German nation and the burden of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles caused many Germans to feel unjustly treated. The left wing and the Jews stood branded as turncoats who caused the defeat. Immediately after the WW1, Germany was in astate of uproar. The Weimar republic was an attempt to restore order. The weakness of the Weimar government allowed extremist parties particularly on the right to establish inroads. The Nazi party was the most successful of these. When the Weimar republic collapsed it wasn't cut and dry that theNazi party would sieze power, but the lack of coordination by opposing political groups allowed them to do so.

 

Once the Third Reich had been established many ordinary Germans took it upon themselves to harass and intimitade Jews within Germany. The situation got so out of hand that laws had to be put in place indicating what was permitted - these are the so called Nuremburg Laws. Now the question arises did the people who imtimidated Jews commit atrocities? From the evidence I can gather no - they were trying to be good Germans for the wrong reasons imo.

 

Hannah as a female SS guard is abit of a curiosity, since there were relatively few female SS guards. From the first Nazi policy was to restrict females to subordinate roles. That said there isa myth that all good German women stayed home, produced lots of Aryan babies and maintainthe home. Many did, but equally many of the lesser roles (secretaries, radio operators and the like) were taken by women, especially towards the end of the war.

 

Schlink carefully avoids the true SS monsters in the novel, though there is a fleeting refernce to 'The Mare' who was an infamous SS guard who had a penchant for stamping inmates to death, hence her nickname. Hannah and her codefendants are accussed of a crime by ommission i.e. they didnt open the church door. That still makes them guilty in my view but not monsters, since when they put the women in the church there was no indication that the church would be bombed.

 

I'll leave it there for now

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I just want to thank everyone who read and took part in the discussions on The Reader in October - it's been very interesting and I've enjoyed hosting the circle for the month. :D

 

Just because October is over doesn't mean that people who haven't yet read it can't do so and leave their comments in the thread though - it will remain open permanently, like all the others, for members to come to as and when they please.

 

Thanks again - it's been a pleasure! :D

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I really enjoyed this book especially following the character of Hannah and finding out more about what she was involved in during the war.

 

The characters were well developed and all relevant to the story. It is a while since I read the book but it is one that I have kept intending to read again in the future. I have recommended this book to many of my friends, all of whom have enjoyed it too.

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I've just finished reading this and was very interested to read people's comments on the multi-layeredness (is that a word?) of this book, many of which hadn't occured to me.

 

What struck me most strongly was the realisation again, that ordinary people are capable of the most horrific actions. Hanna asking the judge, "What would you have done?" really gives pause for thought. How do we know how we would act given a certain situation? I think it is dangerous to think we are somehow better, or incapable of such atrocities.

 

One point that Schlink made that I disagreed with, was that Michael was somehow guilty by association because he had loved Hanna, even though he was unaware of her past. You do not stop loving someone because they have committed a crime, although undoubtedly it changes your perception of them. You can love the person but not the crime.

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You can love the person but not the crime.

 

I have this on my shelf tbr..and I think as soon as I finish 2666 I will try to get to The Reader.

 

I have mixed feelings about your statement above Poppy. On one hand, you'd think so, however I suspect that if we found out a loved one had committed such a horrendous act our perception of them would [perhaps] slowly change, and finally most everything they did would be colored by that act. It may not be fair on our part, but I still wonder.

 

I have another of Schlink's books on my shelf, a mystery, Self's Punishment. There are at least three in the series, perhaps more. I think they all have different translators though, don't know if that will cause any discontinuity.

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your point Pontalba re how knowing someone you love had committed a heinious act and how your perception would be coloured by that, I think is brought out in the novel, since Micheal feels less and less for Hannah as the novel progresses.

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