By Helen Gregg
The German Book Office’s November Book of the Month is The Weekend by Bernhard Schlink, author of The Reader. Want to win a FREE copy? Send your name and mailing address to gregg (at) newyork (dot) gbo (dot) org. Every tenth entry will win a free copy, until our supply runs out. (Contest only open to residents of the continental United States.)
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Old friends cautiously reunite at an isolated German estate after one of them is released from prison in Schlink’s (The Reader) meditative novel on the past’s grip on the present and the possibility — or impossibility — of redemption. Convicted of quadruple murder and numerous acts of terrorism on behalf of the radical left, Jörg spent 24 years in prison before being unexpectedly pardoned. His sister, Christiane — whose obsessive concern for her brother’s welfare has turned her into a borderline recluse — arranges a gathering to welcome Jörg back into society. Among those assembled are journalist Henner, whom Jörg believes betrayed him to the police; quiet Ilse, using the weekend to begin a novel about a common friend’s alleged suicide; and Marko, a young revolutionary keen on convincing Jörg to use his newly earned freedom to speak out against the current government. Schlink avoids the easy route of condemnation and salvation, never lingering too long on Jörg’s crimes — though the ties to the RAF aren’t cloaked — and though the past is admirably handled (sketched in, but not overbearing), the book’s real strength is the finely wrought dynamics among the characters, whose relationships and histories are fraught with a powerful sense of tension and possibly untoward potential.