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Q: As a writer, what is the biggest challenge you face when adapting an already beloved work?

A: For the Germans, The Reader is a work of incredible importance, and it's studied in schools. As far the Germans are concerned, it's [similar to] Great Expectations, and it's a work everyone knows.[Bernhard] Schlink  wanted it translated into English so that it might introduce into other cultures events that they knew almost nothing about. There are parts of the world where they don't know much about mid-20th–century European history. The challenge in [writing the screenplay] was making it make sense to those who knew nothing about the subject and for those who knew everything about it. For example, I invented the seminar scene [when Michael is in school] to discuss what happened at the trials. There was a whole strange silence in Germany that followed 1945, and Germans know about them, but you have to explain why there was this extraordinary gap between the camps and why no one was indicted for what happened.

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