Sunday, 14 December 2008

The Reader Re-Readings

There has been a flurry of renewed interest in Bernhard Schlink's The Reader as reviews of the film adaptation start coming out. I like the one in TIME, where Richard Schickel writes that the book "pretends to high literary seriousness while offering its readers — millions upon millions of them in the 37 countries where it has been translated — plenty of lubriciously rendered romps in the hay".

But the Guardian promises a deeper look in an article by the screenplay author David Hare, on "the tortured journey from book to film". Sadly, we learn little about the actual process of translating the (translated) novel into a screenplay, which would have interested me and perhaps other readers. Nor does Hare mention the novel's "first translator", Carol Brown Janeway, who has translated a number of big-selling German novels such as Perfume (with John Woods) and Measuring the World. Despite these failings, the article makes interesting reading.

And as the literary saloon pointed out, the New Statesman felt prompted to review Schink's latest novel, Das Wochenende, about a former terrorist coming out of prison and confronting old friends who have moved on. Rick Jones posits the theory that the book, although not particularly good, is at least well-timed - to coincide with the film and the release of the ex-RAF terrorist Christian Klar after twenty-six years in prison. What the reviewer fails to note, however, is that the book was published back in February, when it looked extremely unlikely that Klar would be released - after the president had rejected an appeal for clemency out of hand following a secret meeting with the former terrorist in March 2007. It came as somewhat of a surprise then that the Stuttgart higher regional court granted his release at all at the end of November. But still, it's nice to see a review of what must seem a rather obscure title - even though Jones, too, fails to mention the translator of Homecoming, Michael Henry Heim.

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