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Bernhard Schlink

“I had no one to point at. Certainly not my parents, because I had nothing to accuse them of. The zeal for letting in the daylight, with which , as a member of the concentration camps seminar, I had condemned my father to shame, had passed, and it embarrassed me. 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 had 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 for which we are not responsible.
And perhaps we are responsible even for the love we feel for our parents. I envied other students back then who had dissociated themselves from their parents and thus from the entire generation of perpetrators, voyeurs, and the willfully blind, accommodators and accepters, thereby overcoming perhaps not their shame, but at least their suffering because of the shame. But what gave rise to the swaggering self-righteousness I so often encountered among these students? How could one feel guilt and sahme and at teh same time parade one's self-righteousness? Was their dissociation of themselves from their parents ere rhetoric: sounds and noise that were supposed to drown out the fact that their love for their parents made them irrevocably complicit in their crimes?
These thoughts did not come until later, and even later they brought no comfort. How could it be a comfort that the pain I went through because of my love for Hanna, was, in a way, the fate of my generation, a German fate, and that it was only more difficult for me to evade, more difficult for me to manage than for others. All the same, it would have been good for me back then to be able to feel I was part of my generation. ”


Bernhard Schlink, The Reader
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The Reader The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
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