Monday, May 28, 2018

A Weekend of Guilt

Every so often, I enjoy reading what I like to call a "quiet novel". The characters spend their days contemplating their acts and when something tragic does occur, it is muted and subdued yet still powerful. Bernhard Schlink's The Weekend is one of those novels. I was first introduced to his work while watching the film The Reader (never read the book - I know, I know) and I fell in love with the tragically beautiful story. The Weekend kept me gripped within its story as the ending came with a sense of "hope" for all of the characters.

Jorg has finally been released after spending 24 years in jail for being part of the infamous Baader-Meinhof group, as his sister Christiane prepares a weekend celebration for him. Friends and loved ones will spend the weekend with their long lost friend, yet all is not right under the seemingly calm surface of the country weekend. Truths finally come into the light, most of them painful, while emotions will flare as the past is brought in as a guest. At the center of it all is Jorg, who merely wants to reconnect with the outside world and try to seek out his new place in life. However, there are those who wish for him to return to his past life, one filled with loud voices, murders, and actions carried out in the name of an idea of a supposedly better world.

Schlink's writing reminded me of W. G. Sebald - quiet, thoughtful, yet no less compelling. I found myself sitting with the group and wondering if his friends truly saw him as their friend or a symbol of something they despised and secretly (or not so secretly) adored. While others stood in the back to watch the parade go by, Jorg was in the middle of it. I felt sorry for him - after being released, Schlink describes him as a broken down older man. Has the parade moved on without him, or did it silently wait for him to be released? And if it did, does he truly want to be a part of it again or just walk away?


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