I first came across The Reader in a riveting and quite disturbing film starred by Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes. It was the only film that choke me in a flood of tears, something that never happened to me in any movie I watched. When I got hold of this novel, in a decrepit book store at UP-Diliman, I immediately grabbed it. Although expensive and I felt that I was tricked – its price tag removed from the pages, I tried haggling but failed and nevertheless brought the book home. This book is one of the gems in my collection.
Set in a post World War II in Germany. The reader is Michael Berg, 15 year old, lover of Hanna Schmidt, 36 years old, ambiguous, with a troubled past who would rather lose everything in life including her own to conceal her a secret that she considered more shameful than any other crime – illiteracy.
Michael will become a lawyer in a few years, and a regular audience in a trial that will convict his lover to imprisonment. Burdened with a guilty conscience he is forever unable to maintain any healthy relationship with women.
“But what other people in my social environment had done, and their guilt, were in any case a lot less bad than what Hanna had done. I had to point at Hanna. But the finger I pointed at her turned back to me. I had loved her. Not only had I loved her, I had chosen her. I tried to tell myself that I had known nothing of what she had done when I chose her. I tried to talk myself into the state of innocence in which children love their parents. But love of our parents is the only love for which we are not responsible.”