Reunion is a little-known novel that should be a must read for everyone nowadays, teenagers and adults of all around the world. It is a celebration of human spirit and the importance of a diverse thought during the darkest times. At the same time, it is a bleak portrayal of the society and it shows how quickly it can slide backwards when discrimination and racism are normalised.
The story starts on a grey afternoon in 1932 in Germany, when a Stuttgart classroom is stirred by the arrival of a newcomer. Middle-class Hans is intrigued by the aristocratic new boy, Konradin, and before long they become best friends. It’s a friendship of the greatest kind, of shared interests and long conversations, of hikes in the German hills and growing up together. But the boys live in a changing Germany, in fact the background to the story is the rise of Hitler and anti semitism, but it is just that – the background – and it never dominates the story of the two boys and their friendship, although they can not, of course, remain untouched by what is happening.
Powerful, delicate and daring, Reunion is a story of the fragility, and strength, of the bonds between friends, and the friendship between Hans and Konrad also depicts the importance of questioning, doubting status quo and the narrative of the elders, especially when we hear the narrative with the distinction between “us” and “them” where “them” refers to the fellow members of the same community.
It’s an affectionate portrait with a subtle understanding of the relative positions of the two boys, and an examination of the nature (and limits) of their friendship, all done delicately and with great sensitivity.
One of the lesson portrayed is that one can find friendship not only with a mirror of oneself but also with someone with a different worldview, with different national, ethnic or religious backgrounds. Despite their differences, Hans and Konrad share a common interest in books and that exchange of ideas lead to finding a kindred soul for them, nurturing a deep bond that goes beyond all barriers that other people could see.
“A brilliant work of art that deserves a far wider readership” (Ian McEwan)
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