The Reader

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The Reader (Der Vorleser) is a novel by German law professor and judge Bernhard Schlink, published in Germany in 1995 and in the United States in 1997. The story is a parable, dealing with the difficulties post-war German generations have had comprehending the Holocaust; Ruth Franklin writes that it was aimed specifically at the generation Berthold Brecht called the Nachgeborenen, those who came after.


  • Perhaps I only became aware of all this some time later.
    • p. 10-11
  • Nor do I remember how I greeted Frau Schmitz.
    • p. 11
  • I don’t remember what we talked about in the kitchen.
    • p. 12
  • Her face as it was then has been overlaid in my memory by the faces she had later. If I see her in my mind’s eye as she was then, she doesn’t have a face at all, and I have to reconstruct it….I know that I found it beautiful. But I cannot recapture its beauty.
    • p. 12
  • Years later it occurred to me that the reason I hadn’t been able to take my eyes off her was not just her body, but the way she held herself and moved.
    • p. 15
  • I knew none of this—if indeed I know any of it now and am not just making patterns in the air.
    • p. 16
  • I don’t know why I did it. But today I can recognize that events back then were part of a lifelong pattern in which thinking and doing have either come together or failed to come together…Often enough in my life I have done things I had not decided to do.
    • p. 20
  • Why does it make me so sad when I think back to that time? … Why does what was beautiful suddenly shatter in hindsight because it concealed dark truths?...Sometimes the memory of happiness cannot stay true because it ended unhappily.
    • p. 37
  • The memory that illuminates and fixes my first meetings with Hanna makes a single blur…I remember our meeting in those weeks as one single long meeting.
    • p. 41
  • Later I wondered if she had left the water in the tub because she knew I would come back.
    • p. 49
  • I don’t remember what I told my parents.
    • p. 51
  • While I have no memory of the lies I told my parents about the trip with Hanna, I do remember the price I had to pay to stay alone at home the last week of vacation.
    • p. 59
  • I have them stored away, I can project them on a mental screen and watch them, unchanged, unconsumed.
    • p. 62
  • I no longer remember when I first denied Hanna.
    • p. 74
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