After "The Reader," author revisits Germany's past

Fri Oct 8, 2010 8:32am EDT
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By Edward McAllister

NEW YORK (Reuters) - After winning global acclaim with his holocaust novel "The Reader," themes of guilt and retribution are central to Bernhard Schlink's latest book as he tackles another dark period in German history.

His new novel "The Weekend" follows a group of once-radical Communists who are reunited when one of them, a convicted murderer and a member of Germany's violent Red Army Faction, is released from prison after 24 years.

Schlink said the book is about guilt and what the Red Army Faction members did, "before left-wing hopefuls became terrorists -- this is about life and individual guilt."

Born from the radical, anti-establishment student politics of the 1960s, the Red Army Faction, also called Baader-Meinhof, waged war on the German government, killing more than 30 people between 1970 and 1991.

The Red Army Faction executed Germany's top prosecutor Siegfried Buback and prominent businessman Hans Martin Schleyer in what is now known as the "Autumn of 1977."

The episode still casts a shadow over modern-day Germany. Just last week, the trial of a Red Army Faction member charged with involvement in Buback's murder began after new DNA evidence was released.

Schlink, born in Germany in 1944, is part of that post-war generation which had to deal with the knowledge of the Holocaust and its immediate repercussions. He also had contact with some members of Baader-Meinhof.

"I knew some of them myself, and I have spoken to some of them after they have been released or while they were in prison," he said. "Being entangled in guilt, its universal character, it is interesting."   Continued...