In the High Peaks

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Schlink Link--A Key to Understanding

Please also check my earlier entry today, right below this one! Reviews from participants in Schlink Week!

For Schlink Week, I've been reading, among other things, his nonfiction book Guilt about the Past, which is an edited collection of the six lectures he gave at Oxford in 2007. I find the collection impossible to categorize: it's philosophy, history, and law, I suppose, interpreted through Schlink's very personal, distinctive lens. And to be more specific, it is a moral discourse on collective guilt vs. individual responsibility. 

The essay I found most compelling and pertinent to understanding Schlink's oeuvre is the final and briefest lecture, "Stories about the Past," in which Schlink addresses the moral dilemma and burden of writers who set their novels in a disturbing, traumatic, hideous (?) historical past. As an unpublished writer of historical fiction about traumatic national pasts, I agree with some points, but vehemently disagree with others. Nevertheless, my disagreements with Schlink's philosophy about writing about the historical past do not extend to his novels. I get them. I get them, I believe, because since childhood, I've been weighed down with survivor's guilt.

Let me pass this along: Yesterday I managed to connect to an online version of the book through, which allowed me to access this final chapter, through ebrary, but alas, only two pages of it. Google phrase: Guilt about the Past Schlink online. Then click on "ebrary." They will allow you to see two pages of that final chapter.

Of course, two pages is just a tease. I will try to quote from it tomorrow.

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