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Schlink, Bernhard

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Le Monde - France | 23/02/2007

Bernard Schlinck believes in the idea of collective guilt

In his latest novel, 'The Return' ('Die Heimkehr'), the German writer Bernhard Schlinck describes the difficult relationship between a son and his father, a former Nazi. In an interview conducted by Florence Noiville, he explains how one generation can inherit the guilt of another. "In Germany, the second generation decided not to reject, but to integrate the previous one in its circle of solidarity. Fathers and uncles were accepted as politicians, magistrates, professors... In so doing, the 'sons' implicitly took on the sins of the 'fathers'. ... I believe in the idea of collective guilt, when the misdeed of whoever commits a crime becomes that of who didn't commit it. This feeling is shared by most writers of both the first and second generation in Germany. Despite their differences, what ties them to one another is a 'literature of guilt': the expression of a shame lived through their flesh, though buried and often supressed, like all forms of real guilt."

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