How does one live in the shadow of the worst crimes in human history? And how does one write about it? These questions are at the core of Bernhard Schlink's new book, Guilt About the Past - a collection of essays based on the Weidenfeld Lectures he delivered at Oxford University. Using the Holocaust and postwar Germany as an example, he looks at how history affects a nation's future, and its impact on the writers who try to grapple with genocide and other atrocitites. What is the difference between individual and collective guilt? What of the children and grandchildren whose relatives were somehow involved in these events...are they also guilty of the sins of their predecessors? Can we achieve truth and reconciliation? Is culpability finite?
Professor Schlink teaches law and was a judge - but he's perhaps best known as the author of the immensely popular novel, The Reader, which has been published in 37 countries and became an Academy Award winning film in 2008. The Reader takes place in Germany after the second world war - a teenage boy has an illicit affair with a woman twice his age. The boy discovers his lover has an ugly past...as a concentration camp guard who committed horrible crimes. The Reader is, in essense, about truth and reconciliation, and about how one generation comes to terms with the crimes of another. These are themes that imbue much of Benhard Schlink's writing.
Bernhard Schlink joined Michael in our Toronto studio.
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