Quotes from The Reader

Bernhard Schlink ·  216 pages

Rating: (148.2K votes)


“There's no need to talk about it, because the truth of what one says lies in what one does.”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader


“I'm not frightened. I'm not frightened of anything. The more I suffer, the more I love. Danger will only increase my love. It will sharpen it, forgive its vice. I will be the only angel you need. You will leave life even more beautiful than you entered it. Heaven will take you back and look at you and say: Only one thing can make a soul complete and that thing is love.”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader


“Why? Why does what was beautiful suddenly shatter in hindsight because it concealed dark truths? Why does the memory of years of happy marriage turn to gall when our partner is revealed to have had a lover all those years? Because such a situation makes it impossible to be happy? But we were happy! Sometimes the memory of happiness cannot stay true because it ended unhappily. Because happiness is only real if it lasts forever? Because things always end painfully if they contained pain, conscious or unconscious, all along? But what is unconscious, unrecognized pain?”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader


“It wasn't that I forgot Hanna. But at a certain point the memory of her stopped accompanying me wherever I went. She stayed behind, the way a city stays behind as a train pulls out of the station. It's there, somewhere behind you, and you could go back and make sure of it. But why should you?”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader


“Sometimes the memory of happiness cannot stay true because it ended unhappily..”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader



“Now to escape involves not just running away, but arriving somewhere.”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader


“Is this what sadness is all about? Is it what comes over us when beautiful memories shatter in hindsight because the remembered happiness fed not just on actual circumstances but on a promise that was not kept?”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader


“Does everyone feel this way? When I was young, I was perpetually overconfident or insecure. Either I felt completely useless, unattractive, and worthless, or that I was pretty much a success, and everything I did was bound to succeed. When I was confident, I could overcome the hardest challenges. But all it took was the smallest setback for me to be sure that I was utterly worthless. Regaining my self-confidence had nothing to do with success...whether I experienced it as a failure or triumph was utterly dependent on my mood.”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader


“When we open ourselves
you yourself to me and I myself to you,
when we submerge
you into me and I into you
when we vanish
into me you and into you I

Then
am I me
and you are you.”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader


“I thought that if the right time gets missed, if one has refused or been refused something for too long, it's too late, even if it is finally tackled with energy and received with joy. Or is there no such thing as "too late"? Is there only "late," and is "late" always better than "never"? I don't know.”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader



“I took all the blame. I admitted mistakes I hadn't made, intentions I'd never had. Whenever she turned cold and hard, I begged her to be good to me again, to forgive me and love me. Sometimes I had the feeling that she hurt herself when she turned cold and rigid. As if what she was yearning for was the warmth of my apologies, protestations, and entreaties. Sometimes I thought she just bullied me. But either way, I had no choice.”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader


“...So I stopped talking about it. There's no need to talk, because the truth of what one says lies in what one does.”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader


“The tectonic layers of our lives rest so tightly one on top of the other that we always come up against earlier events in later ones, not as matter that has been fully formed and pushed aside, but absolutely present and alive. I understand this. Nonetheless, I sometimes find it hard to bear.”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader


“Desires, memories, fears, passions form labyrinths in which we lose and find and then lose ourselves again.”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader


“What is law? Is it what is on the books, or what is actually enacted and obeyed in a society? Or is law what must be enacted and obeyed, whether or not it is on the books, if things are to go right?”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader



“What a sad story, I thought for so long. Not that I now think it was happy. But I think it is true, and thus the question of whether it is sad or happy has no meaning whatever.”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader


“But then she was not awkward, she was slow-flowing, graceful, seductive - a seductiveness that had nothing to do with breast and hips and legs, but was an invitation to forget the world in the recesses of the body”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader


“In the past, I had particularly loved her smell. She always smelled freshed, freshly washed or of freshed laundry or fresh sweat or freshly loved”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader


“...I had to point at Hanna. But the finger I pointed at her turned back to me. I had loved her. I tried to tell myself that I had known nothing of what she had done when I chose her. I tried to talk myself into the state of innocence in which children love their parents. But love of our parents is the only love for which we are not responsible. ...And perhaps we are responsible even for the love we feel for our parents.”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader


“So I was still guilty. And if I was not guilty because one cannot be guilty of betraying a criminal, then I was guilty of having loved a criminal.”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader



“Or is there no such thing as 'too late'? Is there only 'late' and is 'late' always better than 'never'? I don't know.”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader


“She was struggling, as she always had struggled, not to show what she could do but to hide what she couldn't do. A life made up of advances that were actually frantic retreats and victories that were concealed defeats.”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader


“...if something hurts me, the hurts I suffered back then come back to me, and when I feel guilty, the feelings of guilt return; if I yearn for something today, or feel homesick, I feel the yearnings and homesickness from back then. The tectonic layers of our lives rest so tightly one on top of the other that we always come up against earlier events in later ones, not as matter that has been fully formed and pushed aside, but absolutely present and alive.”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader


“I know that I found it beautiful. But I cannot recapture it's beauty.”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader


“I asked her about life, and it was as if she rummaged around in a dusty chest to get me the answers.”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader



“What should our second generation have done, what should it do with the knowledge of the horrors of the extermination of the Jews? We should not believe we can comprehend the incomprehensible, we may not compare the incomparable, we may not inquire because to inquire is to make the horrors an object of discussion, even if the horrors themselves are not questioned, instead of accepting them as something in the face of which we can only fall silent in revulsion, shame and guilt. Should we only fall silent in revulsion, shame and guilt? To what purpose?”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader


“It was more dangerous not to go; I was running the risk of becoming trapped in my own fantasies. So I was doing the right thing by going. She would behave normally, I would behave normally, and everything would be normal again.”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader


“I didn't like the way I looked, the way I dressed and moved, what I achieved and what I felt I was worth. But there was so much energy in me, such belief that one day I'd be handsome and clever and superior and admired, such anticipation when I met new people and new situations. Is that what makes me sad? The eagerness and belief that filled me then and exacted a pledge from life that life could never fulfill? Sometimes I see the same eagerness and belief in the faces of children and teenagers and the sight brings back the same sadness I feel in remembering myself.”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader


“The Odyssey is the story of motion both purposeful and purposeless, successful and futile. What else is the history of law?”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader


“Which animal do you see when you hold me and close your eyes and think of animals?”
― Bernhard Schlink, quote from The Reader



About the author

Bernhard Schlink
Born place: in Bielefeld, Germany
Born date July 6, 1944
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