Unanswered Questions

Although our analysis and observations resolved many mysteries of The Reader, there are a few questions left to which the novel cannot provide any information. Our main question is the connection between Bernhard Schlink and Michael Berg in The Reader.

The life of the fictional character, Michael, and the life of Bernhard Schlink have remarkable parallels. This includes the following similarities:

  • Age: Schlink was born in 1944, Michael in 1943
  • Study: Schlink and his character have both studied law
  • Family: Michael’s father worked as a university lecturer, Schlink’s father did, too

However, this is just guesswork because you can’t find a statement that confirms or refutes a connection between them in the book. To our knowledge, there is no reliable source on this subject.

Other unanswered questions:

  • Even if he should have no relation to Michael: Is the novel fully fictional or did the story really happen?
  • Was Hanna an existing person?
  • Are the descriptions of the Auschwitz trials real observations or merely a free retelling?

Looking at the general notation, we noticed that Bernhard Schlink basically describes each process to the smallest detail. In some places, this makes sense, but in some passages, you could do without details. For example, the description of the courthouse.

3 thoughts on “Unanswered Questions”

  1. Hi there. I’ll attempt to answer one of your questions: ‘Who is the reader?’.

    When translating the original German title ‘Der Vorleser’ into English, there is no equivalent word in English, as Vorleser means ‘a person who reads out loud.’ So with the title ‘The Reader’, in English, we do not get the full effect of the title’s meaning.

    I believe that Michael Berg is the ‘reader’ in the novel. He reads books aloud to Hanna because she is illiterate, so in essence the title of the book alludes to this before we have even started reading the book, because she needs to be read out loud to. (vorlesen = to read out)

    Later on in the book, Michael goes to the concentration camp to see where Hanna was an SS guard, then finds out where she is in prison, and then sends her tape recordings of him reading works of literature. Here he is still playing the role of „der Vorleser“ after many years.

    As for the idea behind ‘The Reader’, it is all about the second-generation, post holocaust, coming to terms with the Nazi past.


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