Kindle Bernhard Schlink Ñ Der Vorleser PDF/EPUB ¼ Ñ

Hailed for its coiled eroticism and the moral claims it makes upon the reader this mesmerizing novel is a story of love and secrets horror and compassion unfolding against the haunted landscape of postwar GermanyWhen he falls ill on his way home from school fifteen year old Michael Berg is rescued by Hanna a woman twice his age In time she becomes his lover—then she inexplicably disappears When Michael next sees her he is a young law student and she is on trial for a hideous crime As he watches her refuse to defend her innocence Michael gradually realizes that Hanna may be guarding a secret she considers shameful than murder


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    What About the Children? The Reader is a profound exposition of the 'second generation' issues concerning moral guilt for the Holocaust But it is I think also relevant generally to the way in which human beings get ensnared incrementally into the evils of their society We are all inevitably involved in this larger problem And like the SS guards at a Nazi death camp we are unaware of the moral peril of our situation and unwilling to remove ourselves from that situation even when its harmful effects are obviousTo be personal and concrete At the moment I have three acquaintances each of whom has had a reasonably successful corporate career one as an investment manager in the City the second as a senior executive of an international sporting organisation and the third as a partner of a global accounting firm All three are however deeply dissatisfied with their lives Their marriages they all feel are on the edge of breakdown One has had a psychological breakdown and is now institutionalised Another has been made redundant and despite a large payout sees nothing but existential gloom for the rest of his days The last is disgusted with the complete indifference of both his colleagues and clients to the visible harm their firms are inflicting on the world All of them it shouldn't be necessary to emphasise 'volunteered' for the careers and styles of living they now suffer fromA central question posed to The Reader's defendant in her trial for causing the death of Jewish prisoners trapped in a burning church is Why didn't you unlock the door? I posed essentially the same question to my three acquaintances The situation you now find yourself in did not occur overnight I gently suggested Therefore as you perceived what was happening to your mind to your family to the quality of your life to national culture why didn't you stop? In principle stopping is even less difficult than unlocking a door The reasons given for not stopping were almost identical in all three cases I can't afford to The financial denotation of 'afford' however wasn't the main point Guilt in not providing what their families needed was important Financial compensation had become just that compensation for the companionship of marriage and family that had been denied This was associated with a fear of the disappointment or disapproval by their friends and family Success is naturally a social matter defined for us by those we know well But upon pushing a bit harder it was also clear that the common strand among them was that each believed he had somehow let himself down by not realising the full potential he believed he had in him This psychic driver of being the best you can struck loud bells in my own experience It also reminded me of the remarkable book by Karen Ho a social researcher from Princeton Her ethnographic study of the life and culture of Wall Street Liquidated is as insightful as it is troublesome to anyone who asks themselves why indeed they have not simply unlocked the door to an alternative life As she discovered in her employment in an investment bank the culture of professional firms like Goldman Sachs and McKinsey Company is grounded in a simple direct message You are here or want to be here in the case of applicants because you are the best and want to be among the best Call it the Culture of Presumptive Excellence CPE for shortCPE is what stimulates people to work consistently impossible hours in places distant from home with no respite It also justifies the treatment of subordinates as corporate fodder hiring and firing with panache and insisting on single minded loyalty as one moves up the ranks Standards of excellence after all do not maintain themselves In my experience CPE not compensation or excitement or 'perks' is the motive force of not just Wall Street but of the entire global corporate world Escaping that world is no easier than escaping the totalitarian society of Nazi Germany The identity and the obligations of 'being the best' is a very powerful lock indeed without any obvious keyOf course CPE is not merely a corporate problem it is a societal problem It is a problem of the perceived order Schlink's war trial defendant Hanna did not unlock the doors of the church to let the prisoners out not because she is evil or because she was following orders She was afraid she says of the disorder that would have ensued prisoners running amok without the proper supervision to get them back in marching line It is this same disorder that my three acquaintances seem to fear most The problem with being 'the best' is that the criterion for being best has to be set by someone with authority The self identity of the best depends on this To reject this classification and the criteria that define it one also must reject the authority that sanctioned it This authority is so diffuse throughout society that to reject it means to reject the entire society The loss of both identity and context for establishing a new identity is the ultimate disorder chaosJean Korelitz for example herself a former admissions officer for Princeton shows how pervasive the CPE is in the steps before entering the corporate world in her novel Admission Princeton's 'pitch' to applicants is exactly the same as that of the Wall Street firms to its applicants As the best you will want to stay among the best so apply to Princeton The stage before this entry into prep school is also fictionalised from experience in turn by Louis Auchincloss particularly in his novel The Rector of Justin The message doesn't vary We are the best and will help you stay among the bestThe destruction of personalities families and culture by CPE is systematic And it is systematically defended even by those whom it excludes The effects of CPE extend beyond those who are certifiably as it were the best to those who aspire to become part of the elite Deficiencies are masked by the aspiration itself which is merely the acceptance of the defining authority In The Reader Hanna is able to hide her secret shame by joining the SS an elite corps I can say with a moral certainty that all three of my acquaintances have what are to them equivalent to Hanna's secret deficiencies Fear of exposure is therefore a powerful motivation to keep the system going to promote its stable orderliness even when it is so evidently destructiveSchlink's narrator Michael Berg knows that Hanna could not have committed the crimes she is accused of because of the secret she is unwilling to reveal She may be guilty but not as guilty as she appears or of what she is charged with What duty does he have to unlock the door with which she has imprisoned herself? To speak up either to her or the court would expose her to profound shame greater shame even than that of being found guilty of war crimes perhaps And if he does decide to speak up how should he do it to her? To her lawyer? To the judge? I feel the same dilemmas in advising my acquaintances knowing that any mis step could provoke yet consternation as well as a pointed lack of gratitude for my solicited but still impertinent adviceBerg's father a philosopher advises a simple ethical rule don't try to second guess the criterion of the good that an individual has established for himself This is useless advice It simply anoints conformity as the ethical norm Conformity is the opposite of resistance a capacity for which is essential to avoid personal co optation to either totalitarianism or corporatism Resistance which can take many forms All of them dangerous because they challenge order and the power behind order And all demand apparently un virtuous behaviour How can one advise such a course to anyone one cares about? Ultimately Berg fails to act at all I find myself in Berg's position I feel any advice I can give is vapid To suggest resistance against a corporate culture that is so pervasive and so domineering is madness I can only ask the question Best is the superlative for what? But I can't answer the question I am as trapped as anyone else Will the children of my acquaintances or my own look at the lives of their parents with the same dismay as the so called second generation of German children perceived their parents after 1945?Schlink's story ends in tragic sadness and unresolved guilt Perhaps no other ending is possible