About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

#94: The Weekend

The Weekend, by Bernhard Schlink, translated from the German by Shaun Whiteside (New York: Pantheon, 2010)

"Old friends and lovers reunite for a weekend in a secluded country home after spending decades apart. They excavate old memories and pass clandestine judgments on the wildly divergent paths they've taken since their youth. But this isn't just any reunion, and their conversations about the old days aren't your typical reminiscences: After twenty-four years, Jorg, a convicted murderer and terrorist, has been released from prison. The announcement of his pardon will send shock waves through the country, but before the announcement, his friends -- some of whom were Baader-Meinhof sympathizers or those who clung to them -- gather for his first weekend of freedom. They have been summoned by Jorg's devoted sister, Christiane, whose concern for her brother's safety is matched only by the unrelenting zeal of Marko, a young man intent on having Jorg continue to fight for the cause.

"Bernhard Schlink is at his finest as The Weekend unfolds. Passions are pitted against pragmatism, ideas against actions, and hopes against heartbreaking realities."

Opening Lines:
"She got there just before seven. She'd expected to make more headway and arrive sooner by traveling in the early morning."

My Take:
No pithy or snarky comments to offer here, but this was a pretty good book. Compact, good use of language (even in translation). Interesting characters, all of whom clearly have way more going on in their stories than we get to see, but this makes sense for a story that takes place pretty much in the course of a single weekend (though with lots of discussion and memories of past events, obviously). Almost has the feel of a stage play, which wasn't a bad thing -- just an interesting one. Characters include Christiane, who questions the degree to which she's put Jorg at the center of her life (too much? not enough) and whether she's done right by him; Ulrich, who seems intent on drawing some explanation from Jorg about just how it felt to kill someone; Ulrich's daughter Dorle, who's intent on seducing someone important this weekend if it kills her; Karin, the vicar whose constant peacemaking attempts belie her own secret doubts; Ilsa, the single teacher suddenly compelled to spend her time chronicling the adventures of terrorists/ freedom fighters like Jorg; Christiane's housemate Margarete, who helps keep the weekend flowing smoothly despite not having met the other guests before; and Henner, who may or may not have been the one who tipped the police off as to Jorg's whereabouts all those years ago. This is not a warm, fuzzy, chick-lit sort of reunion story, where everything's neatly wrapped up by the last page; rather, it's an intriguing meditation on what becomes of our dreams and ideals as we grow older.

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