The Reader


I went and saw the Austrian premier of The Reader last night. I had to go see it because Will's old boss emailed me that he & his wife were both struck by the similarities between Will and the main character. The movie was very good, but it sounds like the book is much better, so I will try to read that.

I'm very disturbed though by all the people complaining about the movie / book / Kate Winslet making a Nazi into a sympathetic character. The complaint is that our culture is watering down the history of the Holocaust by making it more and more palatable. But it strikes me that anyone who says Nazis can't be sympathetic is missing the very most important lesson of the entire episode. Which is that just because you or someone you like sometimes do(es) good things, it doesn't mean you or they aren't possibly doing fundamentally evil things as well. Maybe without even realizing the extent of how bad your own actions are.

When I was in highschool a book about Nazi doctors came out and it got a lot of criticism for making them sound like real people, not monsters. And it was actually a Sunday School teacher (sorry, I can't remember which though I can visualize what room we were in!) that pointed out to me that this was the most important lesson we had to learn, how ordinary doctors became Nazi doctors, and how to make sure it doesn't happen to us.

When Will and I first got to Vienna we were in a Croatian restaurant and the waiter said he didn't speak English so we began speaking German to him & he looked surprised. Later he came and talked to us (in English) and said that the truth was he hated Americans because we were all guilty for what was happening in Iraq and should be held accountable for it, just as all German-speaking people were held accountable by the world for the Nazis. I didn't argue with that.

Last week was just busy -- I'd over-committed on reviewing as well as having an aggressive schedule of writing proposals (mostly funding but one teaching) and then got an article and a grant back I have to revise. Also, Will was in New York so I hardly heard from him until Saturday we were able to talk. This week I have a talk in Bern, but otherwise I have much the same to do as last week.
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