March 16, 2015
Law Professor Bernhard Schlink of Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany, and author of the best-selling novel The Reader, is set to deliver Tulane Law School’s Eason-Weinmann Lecture March 24.
“What would you have done?”
It’s the question Hanna Schmitz asks the judge interrogating her as she sits on trial for her role in letting Jewish women prisoners burn to death while she was a concentration camp guard during World War II.
It’s also the question readers surely find themselves asking as narrator Michael Berg recounts his relationship with Hanna in The Reader, a best-selling novel about law and morality, love and betrayal and lingering guilt, written by Professor Bernhard Schlink of Humboldt University in Germany.
Winner of the Boston Review’s Fisk Fiction Prize and an Oprah Book Club selection, The Reader (Der Vorleser) was adapted into a 2008 movie for which Kate Winslet won a best actress Academy Award.
The book’s underlying themes and challenges are the types of dilemmas Schlink plans to address when he gives Tulane Law School’s Eason-Weinmann Lecture March 24.
The public lecture, titled “At Wit's End: On Conscience at the Fringes of Law,” is scheduled for 5 p.m. in the Wendell H. Gauthier Appellate Moot Court Room 110, with a reception to follow in the Marian Mayer Berkett Multipurpose Room.
Schlink, a former judge of the state Constitutional Court of Northrhine-Westphalia, is one of Germany’s most distinguished experts on constitutional and public international law. He is a law faculty member at Humboldt University in Berlin. He’s also one of his country’s most successful novelists and its first author to lead The New York Times bestseller list.
He followed The Reader with other novels and short-story collections, including Self’s Punishment (2004), Self’s Deception (2007), Summer Lies (2012) and Guilt about the Past (2013). He is working on the script for a documentary about the end of World War I in Germany.
He is a visiting professor at the Cardozo School of Law in New York and an Honorary Fellow of St. Anne’s College, Oxford.
Schlink’s writing often explores his nation’s war-time past and how succeeding generations deal with that history.
In a 2012 interview with the British newspaper The Guardian, he’s quoted as saying, “I can't say I’m thankful about being German because I sometimes experience it as a huge burden. But it is an integral part of me and I wouldn't want to escape it.”
The Eason-Weinmann Lecture is funded by the Eason Weinmann Center for International and Comparative Law, a key component of Tulane’s deeply rooted and long tradition of exploring and teaching comparative law. The center, a leading academic hub for American and foreign scholars, was created in 1981 with the help of a generous gift from John Giffen Weinmann (L ’52) and Virginia Eason Weinmann, his wife. John Weinmann, a former chair of Tulane's Board of Administrators, served as U.S. Ambassador to Finland in 1989-91 and then White House chief of protocol in 1991-93. He was inducted into Tulane Law School's Hall of Fame in 2013.