I owe Gerhard Self an apology …. another one.

Gerhard Self is the protagonist in Bernhard Schlink’s crime trilogy and I was supposed to be reading the second one during Judith’s Bernhard Schlink week. Only something got in the way – just like something’s been getting in the way for the 5 years it’s been sitting on my bookshelves. (I wouldn’t mind but I loved the first one.) So what’s the excuse this time?

German Literature Month arrived late October in the UK when Radio 4 chose Summer Lies as a book at bedtime. I don’t usually listen to this because I don’t like abridged versions of anything but I thought listening to some short stories would be therapeutic. Over the course of a week, the BBC broadcast 2 of the longer stories, and they were so good, that I ***had*** to read the rest.

Translated by Carol Brown Janeway

They were absolutely marvellous.

The volume consists of 7 stories and if you, by a supreme act of will,  pace yourself at a story per night, it contains a week’s worth of deeply engaging and yes, let’s use the word, blissful reading. Stories of turning points, betrayals (small and large). Male and female protagonists dealing with life’s dilemmas, sometimes triggered by external forces – like meeting a man on the run on a plane trip – or simply by a change in emotional makeup – such as a aged mother discovering that she no longer loves her children.

The characters aren’t necessarily likeable – indeed, they can be downright irritating.  (Anne from The Night in Baden-Baden, I’m thinking of you.) But they are human and the psychological profiles are instantly recognisable.

In any collection of short stories, there are usually one or two weaker stories buried somewhere in the middle.  Not so here.  In fact, the only fault I can find is that the collection is too short.  Please, Professor Schlink, I want more.