From the Publisher
Praise for The Weekend
“Schlink avoids the easy route of condemnation and salvation . . . The book’s real strength is the finely wrought dynamic among the characters, whose relationships and histories are fraught with a powerful sense of tension and possibly untoward potential.”
Praise for The Reader
“Arresting, philosophically elegant, morally complex . . . Schlink tells this story with marvelous directness and simplicity, his writing stripped bare of any of the standard gimmicks of dramatization.”
—The New York Times
“[A] beautiful, disturbing, and finally morally devastating novel. From the first page, The Reader ensnares both heart and mind.”
—Los Angeles Times
Praise for Homecoming
“A beguilingly oblique novel . . . Despite its intricate, mazelike progression, Homecoming has surprising narrative thrust.”
“Sensitive and disturbing . . . The reader’s mind opens to the story like a plant unfurling its leaves to the sun.”
—The New York Times Book Review
Praise for Flights of Love
“An outstanding collection.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“Intimate, smart, powerful . . . As memorable as The Reader . . . Dazzling.”
—The Washington Post Book World
…[an] intelligent, stimulating novel…The integration of ideas and narrative detail may not always be fully successful in this tight little novel, but it is never trivial. At its best, Schlink, one of Germany's few internationally known authors, allows us a glimpse into the national sense of unease beneath the smooth surface of his country's culture.
The Washington Post
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. (Oct.)
Would you die for a cause? Would you killfor one? Jörg was willing to kill, going after capitalists and anyone else who got in his way back in Eighties Germany. Now, after 24 years in prison, he's being released. Is he contrite? Still a firebrand? In Schlink's probing new work, it's more complicated than that. Jörg's sister Christiane has planned a get-together with old friends at the country house she shares with Margarete—a welcome-home party for a murderer. There's Henner, whom Jörg suspects of having betrayed him; Ulrich, who baits Jörg and whose daughter tries to seduce him; Karin, now an irritatingly patient and loving minister; quiet Ilse, who's writing a fictional account about another member of their group; and assorted spouses. Enter Marko, a crafty young revolutionary who wants Jörg to rejoin the cause, and an anonymous visitor who turns out to have a shattering connection to Jörg. VERDICT Schlink (The Reader) deftly manages his characters' interlocking stories yet refuses to give readers an easy answer to the central dilemma: How are we supposed to feel about Jörg? That might frustrate some readers, but the ambiguity is realistic and the book itself a beautifully crafted and stimulating read. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/10.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
A tight literary contrivance by the novelist best known forThe Reader(1997).
ImagineThe Big Chilltransplanted to the German countryside in the wake of 9/11 terrorism. As the title suggests, this narrative encompasses a single weekend, Friday through Sunday, which represents a reunion of those who were close (even lovers) during their university days, but who have seen their lives take significantly different paths. The impetus for the gathering is the pardon of Jörg, a convicted terrorist who has been imprisoned for more than two decades for the murder of at least four victims. His older sister, Christiane, has been like a mother to him (though some suspect a lover as well), and she has arranged for the gathering of former friends (and spouses and a few interlopers) to welcome her brother back to the world at the country house she shares with Margarete. Christiane and Margarete may or may not be lovers, though the romantic alliances that begin the novel are likely to shift before its end (or there would be no novel). Among the guests is a noted journalist who might be able to help Jörg make his case with the public. He was once Jörg's best friend, later (and briefly) became the lover of Christiane and is suspected by Jörg of the tip to authorities that led to his arrest. There is also a back story, a gathering from some 30 years earlier, at a funeral for a friend to them all who mysteriously committed suicide. At least one of the friends believes that the suicide was a fake, that the purported suicide was also a terrorist who may still be alive. She spends the weekend writing a novel within the novel concerning this possibility, constructing a narrative that "she couldn't research, but had to fantasize." Jörg finds himself in a tug of war between a younger radical who wants him to issue an unrepentant proclamation and a lawyer who wants Jörg to cut ties with his terrorist past.
Amid ongoing revelation, all narrative strands (and there are many) are tied neatly by the end.
Read an Excerpt
She got there just before seven. She’d expected to make more headway and arrive sooner by traveling in the early morning. When she hit more road construction, and yet more, she grew nervous. Would he walk through the gate, look out for her in vain, his ﬁrst reaction one of disappointment, of discouragement? The sun rose in the rearview mirror—she would rather have been driving toward it than away from it, even if it had dazzled her.
She parked where she had always parked and walked the short path to the gate as slowly as she had always walked. Everything to do with her own life she cleared from her mind, to make room for him. He always had a ﬁrm place in her mind; not an hour passed without her wondering what he was doing right now, how he was getting on. But each time she met him, he alone existed for her. Now that his life was no longer in suspended animation, now that it was starting to move once more, he needed her full attention.
The old sandstone building stood in the sun. As so often before, she was strangely moved that a building should serve such an ugly purpose and at the same time be so beautiful: the walls covered with Virginia creeper, ﬁeld and forest green in spring and summer, yellow and red in autumn, the small towers on the corners and the large one in the middle, its windows like those of a church, the heavy gate, forbidding, as if it wished not to shut the inhabitants in but to shut their enemies out. She looked at the clock. The people in there liked to keep you waiting. She had often applied in vain for a two-hour visit, and after the hour granted, was simply not collected but went on sitting with him for another half hour, three quarters of an hour, without really being with him any longer.
But when the bells of the nearby church began to strike seven, the gate opened and he stepped out and blinked into the sun. She crossed the street and embraced him. She embraced him before he could set down his two big bags, and he stood in her embrace without returning it. “At last,” she said, “at last.”
“Let me drive,” he said as they stood by the car, “I’ve dreamed of it so many times.”
“Are you sure? Cars have got faster, the trafﬁc’s heavier.”
He insisted, and kept driving even when the sweat stood out on his brow. She sat tensely next to him and said nothing when he made mistakes turning in the city and overtaking on the autobahn. Until they passed a sign for a service station and she said, “I need some breakfast, I’ve been up for ﬁve hours.”
She had visited him in prison every two weeks. But when he walked along the counter with her, ﬁlled his tray, stood at the till, came back from the toilet and sat down facing her, she felt as if she were seeing him for the ﬁrst time in ages. She saw how old he had become, older than she had noticed or admitted during her visits.
At ﬁrst glance he was still a handsome man, tall, square face, bright green eyes, thick salt- and- pepper hair. But his poor posture emphasized his little paunch, which didn’t match his thin arms and legs, his gait was slow, his face gray, and the wrinkles that crisscrossed his forehead, and were steep and long in his cheeks, indicated not concentration so much as a vague sense of strain. And when he spoke—she was startled by the awkwardness and hesitancy with which he responded to what she said, and the random, jittery hand movements with which he emphasized his words. How could she have failed to notice that on her visits? What else was happening, in him and to him, that she had also failed to notice?
“Are we going to your place?”
“We’re going to the country for the weekend. Margarete and I have bought a house in Brandenburg, rundown, no heating, no electricity, and the only water comes from the pump outside, but it’s got a big, old park. It’s gorgeous now, in the summer.”
“How do you cook?”
She laughed. “Are you interested in that? With great fat red gas canisters. I’ve ordered an extra two for the weekend; I’ve invited our old friends.”
She’d hoped he’d be pleased. But he showed no pleasure. He only asked: “Who?”
She had thought long and hard. Which old friends would do him good, which would only make him embarrassed or reserved? He needs to be among people, she thought. And more than that, he needs help. Who will he get that from, if not his old friends? Finally she decided that the ones who were pleased she had called, the ones who wanted to come, were also the right ones. In some of those who made excuses she sensed honest regret; they would have liked to be there if they’d known about it earlier, if they hadn’t already made other plans. But what was she to do? His release had come as a surprise.
“Henner, Ilse, Ulrich with his second wife and their daughter, Karin with her husband, Andreas, of course. With you, Margarete and me that’s eleven.”
“You know the one—for a long time he just wrote to me. He visited me for the ﬁrst time four years ago and he’s been a regular visitor ever since. Apart from you he’s ...”
“You mean that lunatic who nearly cost you your reprieve?”
“He only did as I asked. I wrote the welcoming speech, I knew who the addressees were, what the occasion was. You have nothing to reproach him for.”
“You couldn’t have known what you were doing. He did know, and he didn’t try to stop you, he just rode on into it. He uses you.” She was as furious now as she had been that morning, reading in the paper that he had written the welcoming address for an obscure left- wing conference on the theme of violence. His actions, the paper said, had revealed his incapacity for insight and remorse—such a person didn’t deserve to be reprieved.
“I’ll give him a call and invite him.” He got up, looked for and found some coins in his trouser pocket and walked to the phone. She got up too, was about to run after him and stop him, then sat back down again. When she saw he didn’t know where to take the conversation, she got back up, walked over to him, took the receiver and described the route to her house. He put his arm around her, and it felt so good that she was reconciled.
When they drove on, she was at the wheel. After a while he asked, “Why didn’t you invite my son?”
“I called him and he just put the phone down. Then I wrote him a letter.” She shrugged. “I knew you’d want him to be there. I also knew he wouldn’t come. He decided against you a long time ago.”
“That wasn’t him. That was them.”
“What difference does it make? He’s become the person they brought up.”