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Bernhard Schlink
Schlink in 2018
Schlink in 2018
Born Bernhard Schlink
6 July 1944 (1944-07-06) (age 78)
Bielefeld, Germany
  • Author
  • professor
  • judge
Education University of Heidelberg
Free University of Berlin
Notable works The Reader
Relatives Edmund Schlink (father)

Bernhard Schlink (German: [ˈbɛʁn.haʁt ʃlɪŋk]; born 6 July 1944) is a German lawyer, academic, and novelist. He is best known for his novel The Reader, which was first published in 1995 and became an international bestseller. He won the 2014 Park Kyong-ni Prize.

Early life

He was born in Großdornberg, near Bielefeld, 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 anti-Nazi Confessing Church. 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. Bernhard Schlink was brought up in Heidelberg from the age of two. He studied law at West Berlin's Free University, graduating in 1968.

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 worked as a scientific assistant at the Universities of Darmstadt, Bielefeld and Freiburg. 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 the main character named Selb—a play on the German word for "self"—(the first, Self's Punishment, co-written with Walter Popp [de] being available in the UK). One of these, Die gordische Schleife, won the Glauser Prize [de] 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 No. 1 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 [de]. A January 2008 literary tour, including an appearance in San Francisco for City Arts & Lectures, was canceled 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).

As of 2008, Schlink divides his time between New York and Berlin. He is a member of PEN Centre Germany.


  • 1989 Friedrich-Glauser-Preis for Die gordische Schleife
  • 1993 Deutscher Krimi Preis for Selbs Betrug
  • 1995 Stern des Jahres ("Star of the Year") from the Munich newspaper Abendzeitung ("Evening News") for Der Vorleser
  • 1997 Grinzane Cavour Prize (Italian) for Der Vorleser
  • 1997 Prix Laure Bataillon (French) for Der Vorleser
  • 1998 Hans Fallada Prize for Der Vorleser
  • 1999 Welt-Literaturpreis for life works
  • 2000 Heinrich Heine Prize of the "Heinrich-Heine-Gesellschaft" at Hamburg
  • 2000 Evangelischer Buchpreis for Der Vorleser
  • 2000 Cultural prize of the Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun awarded yearly to a Japanese bestseller, for Der Vorleser
  • 2004 Officer's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
  • 2014 Park Kyong-ni Prize (South Korea)

See also

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