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Damian Grace

This is a book about a very specific past, that of the Third Reich, and the way in which it produced guilt in the next generation, but its lessons can be generalised. Bernhard Schlink shows how that guilt has withstood the institutional strategies of history, law and politics to erase it. Schlink, born in 1944, belongs to the generation burdened with the moral repercussions of the war and the Holocaust. Many of the parents, teachers, judicial officers, bureaucrats and professors who rebuilt Germany were implicated in Nazism, and many young Germans – Schlink among them – found themselves guilty by entanglement. This theme runs centrally through Schlink’s fiction – notably The Reader (1997) and Homecoming (2008) – and now through these six essays, given originally as lectures at St Anne’s College, Oxford.

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