Bernhard Schlink

Bernhard Schlink

Schlink, Fondation Maeght, February 2005
Born Bernhard Schlink
6 July 1944 (1944-07-06) (age 72)
Bielefeld, Germany
Occupation Author, Professor, Judge
Nationality German
Notable works The Reader

Bernhard Schlink (born 6 July 1944 in Bielefeld) is a German lawyer and writer.

Early life

He was born to a German father (Edmund Schlink) and a Swiss mother, the youngest of four children. His mother, Irmgard, had been a theology student of his father, whom she married in 1938. (Edmund Schlink's first wife had died in 1936.) Bernhard's father had been a seminary professor and pastor in the Confessing Church. (In 1935 he had been removed from his teaching position in Giessen for his public criticism of Nazi policies.) In 1946 he became a professor of dogmatic and ecumenical theology at Heidelberg University, where he would serve until his retirement in 1971. Over the course of four decades Edmund Schlink became one of the most famous and influential Lutheran theologians in the world and a key participant in the modern Ecumenical Movement.[1] Bernhard Schlink was brought up in Heidelberg from the age of two. He studied law at West Berlin's Free University, graduating in 1968.[2]

Schlink became a judge at the Constitutional Court of the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia in 1988 and in 1992 a professor for public law and the philosophy of law at Humboldt University, Berlin. He retired in January 2006.


Schlink studied law at the University of Heidelberg and at the Free University of Berlin. He had been a law professor at the University of Bonn and Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt am Main before he started in 1992 at Humboldt University of Berlin. His career as a writer began with several detective novels with a main character named Selb—a play on the German word for "self"—(the first, Self's Punishment, co-written with Walter Popp being available in the UK). One of these, Die gordische Schleife, won the Glauser Prize in 1989.

In 1995 he published The Reader (Der Vorleser), a novel about a teenager who has an affair with a woman in her thirties who suddenly vanishes but whom he meets again as a law student when visiting a trial about war crimes. The book became a bestseller both in Germany and the United States and was translated into 39 languages. It was the first German book to reach the number one position in the New York Times bestseller list. In 1997 it won the Hans Fallada Prize, a German literary award, and the Prix Laure Bataillon for works translated into French. In 1999 it was awarded the Welt-Literaturpreis of the newspaper Die Welt.

In 2000, Schlink published a collection of short fiction called Flights of Love. A January 2008 literary tour, including an appearance in San Francisco for City Arts & Lectures, was cancelled due to Schlink's recovery from minor surgery.

In 2008 Stephen Daldry directed a film adaptation of The Reader. In 2010 his non-fiction political history, Guilt About the Past was published by Beautiful Books Limited (UK).

Schlink currently divides his time between New York and Berlin.[3]



Literary works in German

Other works in German

Titles in English


  1. Matthew L. Becker, “Edmund Schlink (1903-1984),” in Twentieth-Century Lutheran Theologians, ed. Mark Mattes, 195-222 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck &Ruprecht, 2013)
  2. "Bernhard Schlink page – biography bibliography interviews essays". 2004-02-16. Retrieved 2014-03-06.
  3. "A dark inheritance". Retrieved 2014-03-06.
  4. Ahn Sung-mi (2014-09-25). "Bernhard Schlink wins Park Kyung-ni Literary Prize". Korea Herald. Retrieved 2014-09-26.
  6. "Penguin Books Australia – Guilt About the Past". Retrieved 2014-03-06.

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