Tuesday, 13 January 2009

The Reader

My affair with Germany started round about 1970 when my family went there to visit my mum's friend Sigi. My sister and I were sent down the lane to a farm to buy 'Zwei Liter Milch und zehn Eier.'

Nearly 40 years and a degree in German later, I went to see the Reader starring Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes. Without giving away the twists - 16 year old takes up with older woman one lust swollen summer. He reads to her and she repays him in sexual kind.

But she clears out when a guilty secret might be revealed. Many years later and she's in prison where he sends tapes to her of the books they went through during that long lost summer. Classic tomes such as The Odyssey and Emilia Galotti. After listening to a tale from Schiller, she writes back to the Reader and tells him: "Schiller needs a woman."

My chuckle did slightly pierce through the silence of the cinema but it was a good take on the man. Actually I was slightly irked that I hadn't used that line while at university. Obviously too callow.

The Reader was frustrating because it hinted at issues of guilt and responsibility but the protagonists weren't expansively drawn and I couldn't really plunge into their dilemmas. The film was about two hours long but it could have done with another 20 minutes to have more visceral impact. It's supposed to be an Oscar contender. Es war gut... aber.....

I might buy the book to see what that's like.

On that subject I've bought over to London Primo Levi's Moments of Reprieve. I have yet to open it. Levi managed to elude the slaughter at Auschwitz - probably just as well I've not started.