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Suzan-Lori Parks '85 Wins Pulitzer Prize for Drama

The Orchards Golf Club to Host 2004 U.S. Women's Open

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Author Bernhard Schlink to Give Reading April 15

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April 12, 2002

Author Bernhard Schlink to Give Reading April 15

Bernhard Schlink

What if you discovered that your dearest relative, favorite teacher, or beloved partner once committed a heinous crime? Could you understand, forgive, and love again? Prize-winning author Bernhard Schlink confronts such difficult questions, most notably the guilt and shame felt among many Germans for the crimes committed by their parents' or grandparents' generations during World War II. Schlink will read from his recently published and unpublished fiction Monday, April 15, at 8 pm in Gamble Auditorium. A discussion and book signing will follow the reading.

The reading is one of several events planned for the author's two-day visit to the Five Colleges. Schlink will also read (in English) at Smith College, Monday, April 15, at 4:30 pm, in room 106 Seelye Hall, and at Amherst College, Tuesday, April 16, at 7:30 pm, in Stirn Auditorium. He will conduct a student seminar (in German) for Five-College students at both the undergraduate and graduate level on Tuesday, April 16, at 4 pm, in Herter Hall 601 at the University of Massachusetts.

Schlink's internationally acclaimed book, The Reader (Pantheon Books, 1997), describes the relationship of Michael and Hanna, a fifteen-year-old German boy and a woman twice his age who, he discovers, once served as a Nazi prison camp guard. The book illustrates the tension felt by the postwar generations, says Schlink, the tension of acknowledging that unforgivable crimes were committed but, at the same time, recognizing that it's wrong to make those who committed them into monsters "so alien to us that we don't have to relate to them." A visible SS tattoo on the arm of a favorite teacher forced Schlink himself to confront war crimes as a very real and personal problem. "If they had been monsters we wouldn't have a problem," he says. "But we have a problem because they are us."

In Flights of Love (Pantheon Books, 2001), Schlink again delves into the moral implications of his characters' behavior and emotions. In each of seven stories, he focuses on love, not as a sentimental, fairy-tale feeling, but as a complicated weave of desire, guilt, jealousy, sacrifice, betrayal, obsession, and rebellion. From a love triangle set during the fall of the Berlin Wall to a man's obsession with his dead wife's adulterous relationship and her former lover, the stories have been called "as perfect as small plays," "as timeless as they are completely of-the-moment."

Schlink has also written four bestselling German crime novels now being translated into English, The Gordian Knot, Self Deception, Self-Administered Justice, and Self Slaughter. He is a professor of law at Humboldt University in Berlin and at Yeshiva University in New York and a state supreme court judge in Germany.

"Schlink's professional background represents the best of interdisciplinary cross-fertilization," said Karen Remmler, codirector of the Harriet L. and Paul M. Weissman Center for Leadership and associate professor of German. "His visit will enhance ongoing efforts by German studies at the Five Colleges to reach out to the local community and to promote interdisciplinary exchange at the Five Colleges, in this case among German studies, literature, and legal studies."

Cosponsors and organizers for Schlink's visit are the German studies departments at Amherst College, Smith College, and Mount Holyoke College; the Department of Germanic Literatures and Languages at the University of Massachusetts; the Five-College Lecture Fund; the Department of Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought at Amherst College; the European Studies Program at Amherst College; the Georges Lurcy Lecture Series Fund at Amherst College; the School of Social Science at Hampshire College; the Center for the Book and Law Program at Hampshire College; and the Odyssey Bookshop.

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