The Banality of Terrorism - Buruma reviews The Weekend by Bernhard Schlink

Ian Buruma reviewed The Weekend by Bernhard Schlink in the Times last month. We just read the book. Here is the crux of what Buruma thought,
The problem with the book is not intellectual. Although he is far too skillful to preside as judge and jury over his invented characters, it is plain where Schlink’s own sentiments lie: on the side of decency, of muddling along as best we can, and of incremental social and political change rather than violent action inspired by grandiose dreams. Just as “The Reader” cannot be read as a justification of Nazi atrocities, there is nothing in “The Weekend” that condones the behavior of antifascist agents of terror.

What makes this a bad novel is that the characters are dead on the page. They are cutout types to whom the author has tacked arguments and opinions to keep the conversation going, but nothing more than that, despite the sexual couplings that go on when people run out of things to say. The sex, too, one feels, is there for the sake of argument...more...
He did not like the book. Neither did we. But we felt much more uneasy about the banality of the novel, wondering if perhaps that was the point of the book.

We have been working on decoding the motives of terrorists for years, going back to our course on terrorism and religion at FDU. The underlying suspicion that we have of any German book about evil actors is that the writer starts with the assumption that it is a basic human flaw that some people are evil. That relieves the German people of their guilt over the Holocaust.

In an Arendt-like manner this novel banalizes the evil of terrorism. We did not like it one bit. We prefer it if the German people maintain their stigma as a nation with a special talent for evil and an accompanying unique guilt. They earned it.

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