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The Reader: between the lines
Letter by Dino Bressab, May 2009
I was amazed by your correspondent Berit Kuennecke's assessment of Bernhard Schlink's The Reader, which Kuennecke describes as a "very good novel" in her review of Good (Films, Socialist Review, April 2009).
Kuennecke seems unaware that, in The Reader, Schlink attempts, not too subtly it must be said, to whitewash German responsibility in the Shoah. Throughout the novel, Hanna is portrayed as feminine and beguiling, and her genocidal actions are euphemised as the fruit of ignorance and naivety. Her enormous guilt gets sidetracked during the trial by futile arguments regarding possession of a key to a church door, and the paternity of a report, while Allied aviation is implicitly blamed for the death of hundreds of innocent victims.
No one before, during or after the trial asks the obvious question, what right did she and other guards have to detain and lock up all those "prisoners"?
Hanna's illiteracy and Michael's lifelong infatuation with her simply defy credibility.
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