New York: Pantheon, 1997. 12mo. Pictorial white paper wraps. 218 pages. Uncorrected proof, inscribed by the author on the title page. Fine.
Winner of the Hans Fallada Prize in 1998. Written with an icy clarity that simultaneously reveals and conceals, The Reader is a fusion of 19th-century post-romantic, post-fairy-tale models with the awful history of the 20th century. The story is a parable, dealing with the difficulties post-war German generations have had comprehending the Holocaust, told in three parts by a boy who takes an older, illiterate lover with a past. How's this for pillow talk: “Which animal do you see when you hold me and close your eyes and think of animals?” A 2008 film adaptation was nominated for five Academy Awards.
“Why? Why does what was beautiful suddenly shatter in hindsight because it concealed dark truths? Why does the memory of years of happy marriage turn to gall when our partner is revealed to have had a lover all those years? Because such a situation makes it impossible to be happy? But we were happy! Sometimes the memory of happiness cannot stay true because it ended unhappily. Because happiness is only real if it lasts forever? Because things always end painfully if they contained pain, conscious or unconscious, all along? But what is unconscious, unrecognized pain?”