Self's Punishment

by Bernhard Schlink

Gerhard Self is a 60-something private investigator. Like the more famous Philip Marlowe he is witty, cynical and concerned to know who the bad guys (or gals) really are. As Self walks the 'mean streets' of 1980s Mannheim though, there's always the chance that any crime might have its roots in Nazi Germany and that anyone - friend, family, even himself - could be guilty. Read it if you're a fan of the loner PI or if you believe that redemption might be possible.


'But that's exactly what power is, not having to act yourself, but getting some megalomaniac to do it. That can't excuse them.'
I tried to explain to her that I didn't want to excuse anyone, but that I simply couldn't pursue the investigation.
'Then you're one of the somebodies that does the dirty work for those people with power. Leave me alone. I'll find my own way back.'
I suppressed the impulse to leave her there, and said instead: 'That's mad, the secretary of the director of the RCW reproaching the detective who carried out a contract for the RCW, for working for the RCW. That's rich.'
We walked on. After a while she put an arm through mine. 'In the old days if something bad happened, I always had the feeling it would all be okay again. Life, I mean. Even after my divorce. Now I know nothing will ever be the same again.'
Translated by Rebecca Morrison


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