The Reader

I’m currently reading The Reader (Der Vorleser) by Bernhard Schlink. Not got very far yet, but I’m finding it remarkably lucid, readable and thought-provoking, a much easier read than most other translations from German (a language which seems to lend itself to leaden-footed prose when rendered in English). The chapter I just read also hit a lot of currently relevant buttons for me. First there was a reference to Stendahl’s Scarlet & Black (the copy which I donated to Bookcrossing resurfaced on a bus in Pontifract this morning) “I identified more with Julien Sorel’s relationship with Madame de Renal than the one with Mathilde de la Mole”. Secondly the narrator, Michael, finds himself increasingly taken with reading aloud to Hanna, something which has been on my mind a lot recently as I mentioned last week. Thirdly, as part of his journey into reading aloud Michael tells Hanna about “Hemingway’s story about the old man and his battle with the fish and the sea”, a central theme to Kurt Vonnegut’s Timequake which I was listening to on an audiobook only last night. And finally, although I haven’t got that far in yet, the whole book deals with the issue of culpability for the Nazi Holocaust, something which is timely because of the recent 60th anniversary of VE day, but which has also been on my mind for other reasons lately (and which other media keep pushing around in my head – World War Two is another major theme in Timequake, and I recently went to see the excellent film Downfall [der Untergang]).

Reading has, I’m glad to say, taken a bigger and bigger part of my life recently, although the more I read, the more I want to read (and I find myself increasingly wanting to return to books that I, or rather a different “I”, read many years ago, in particular Josef Skvorecky‘s books The Cowards and The Engineer of Human Souls [both also “World War Two books” to a greater or lesser degree]).

So, before I forget, some other books I have read recently:

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger: wonderful, beautiful. I’m a sucker for a soppy love story, and what a love story this is. But what I like about it most of all is that, having read quite a few stories in my life about time travel, all of them focusing on the technological and philosophical ramifications, it is so refreshing to read a book about the emotional effects of time travel, both for the traveller and for those who get to see him come and go, and can never quite predict when he’ll do either. This book had me crying; a good thing, in my opinion.

Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre: Also utterly wonderful, and completely deserving of its Booker Prize win.

Oh bugger, time to get the girls from school. More books soon, hopefully, Riddley Walker, Cooking with Fernet Branca, and anything else I can unearth in the archaeological mess surrounding my bed.