THE 's Reviews > The Weekend: A Novel

The Weekend by Bernhard Schlink
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Dec 25, 10

Read in December, 2010

Bernhard Schlink is an author of substance, style, and ideas; it is unfortunate that this work seems only to be a pastiche of his earlier fiction. Neither characters nor plot enhance his distinctive themes of guilt, responsibility, memory, and reconciliation. Vaguely reminiscent (initially) of the film THE BIG CHILL, in this depiction, the group of middle-aged friends are not rendezvousing to mourn an old friend, but have gathered in a rural farmhouse in Germany to welcome home Jorg, a just-released prisoner. Jorg has served a long sentence for murder and other crimes connected with his revolutionary activities. (Although not explicitly detailed, readers can assume Jorg and his friends were associated with Rudi Dutschke and the German student movement of the late 1960's and perhaps subsequently with the violent Red Army Faction or Baader-Meinhof Group.) Questions about Jorg's atttitudes to his former actions and his current views, the varying responses of his companions (especially, his sister Christiane, his possible betrayer Henner, his accuser Ulrich, and the committed Marxist Marko) provide the stage for Schlink's philosophical ruminations. Through a dialectical process the characters reveal the youthful idealism of their memories, which are now overshadowed by the crushing reality of the present. Here the author is at his best in dialogue and detail. However, for reasons unknown, he meanders far afield to create new and revive old romantic attachments for the group (including a bizarre young seductress for Jorg) and to introduce an interloping and "mysterious" stranger (whose true identity is an almost banal literary device). These additional stage props do not help to propel a rather theatrical narrative structure in which we begin to feel that Eugene O'Neill is updating THE ICEMAN COMETH and that Hickey/Jorg and colleagues are about to make sudden revelations about their failed lives. In fact, one Schlink character speaks of "the lies we need to keep on living," which "do not only reveal pain, [but] also create it." This sounds much like O'Neil's Hickey analyzing "pipe dreams" for his besotted friends in Harry Hope's saloon.

As always, Schlink is an author worth perusing because he has something of importance to say to all of us. In the present novel, he is less successful in this effort from an aesthetic perspective. For a more satisfying consideration of Schlink's notable themes, I would recommend turning to his current volume of essays, GUILT ABOUT THE PAST, and leave this fictional treatment aside.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Judith (new)

Judith Very interesting review, as usual. Too bad it's not worth reading, but since I hadn't previously heard of this author, would you recommend "Guilt About the Past" as the best of his works?

THE Actually, I would recommend his best book, THE READER, which was made into a film a few years ago.

message 3: by Judith (new)

Judith Oh my god, i didn't make the connection. I loved that book.

message 4: by THE (last edited Dec 26, 2010 01:41PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

THE I know that short stories are not your favorite genre, but he wrote FLIGHTS OF LOVE (2001), seven wonderful stories that I also enjoyed. You might give that one a look.

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