In ‘The Reader’ Bernard Schlink utilized an affair between a teenage boy and an SS solder to explore the relationship between Germany’s past and present. Through his unsympathetic, blunt and distinctive prose he investigates the wider effects of concentration camps beyond terrified Jews huddled in gas chambers. The result is astounding; an erotic, tragic, and beautiful narrative demonstrating how morals blur, and love changes.
In ‘Flights of Love’ Schlink is just as unforgiving in his style and structure, and just as sensual and heart-breaking, but he takes the idea of relationships in a post-war Germany to a new high. Seven short stories present every possible circumstance surrounding the traditional ideals of love, and butchers through the surface to reveal the cold hard truths laying beneath. Over and over, he asks the question: what is love if it even exists?
Each story follows well crafted characters through the often traumatic relationships. A man who becomes obsessed by a girl in a painting; a look at desire, and love as an object; a man who systematically falls in love with three different women and subsequently meets his comeuppance; is love monogamous? Is love selfish? These stories will haunt you with questions for days after you read them. Their depth is laced elegantly with strong conviction, and genuinely beautiful moments of prose.
This is a collection which brings to the foreground a nation ashamed of its past and searching for its future. Schlink combines ethical reasoning we as humans use everyday with the theories behind social interaction, and forces us to ask ourselves questions for which there are no universal answers.