Guilt About the Past

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The six essays that make up this compelling book view the long shadow of past guilt both as a uniquely German experience and as a global one. Bernhard Schlink explores the phenomenon of guilt and how it attaches to a whole society, not just to individual perpetrators. He considers how to use the lesson of history to motivate individual moral behavior, how to reconcile a guilt-laden past, how the role of law functions in this process, and how the theme of guilt influences his own fiction. Based on the Weidenfeld Lectures he delivered at Oxford University, Guilt About the Past is essential reading for anyone wanting to understand how events of the past can affect a nation's future. Written in Bernhard Schlink's eloquent but accessible style, it taps in to worldwide interest in the aftermath of war and how to forgive and reconcile the various legacies of the past.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Based on a series of lectures that Schlink (constitutional law, Humboldt Univ., Berlin; The Reader) delivered at Oxford University, these six essays grapple with the question of guilt, particularly collective guilt as understood in the aftermath of the Nazi genocides. Schlink brings his knowledge of both law and fiction to bear on this difficult subject. While he writes that guilt is universal and not limited to German history and national consciousness, German guilt permeates his work, although other national histories do figure in his writing, with references to Rwanda, the Stalinist USSR, and South African apartheid. Schlink's essays tackle the complexities of guilt: how the actions of individual perpetrators become another generation's guilt; the connection between past and present; fiction, literature and truth; how individuals live with and overcome past guilt; and the role of law. His legal analysis complements Ian Buruma's The Wages of Guilt: Memories of War in Germany and Japan. VERDICT Recommended for readers and researchers interested in the philosophical questions surrounding national atrocities, trauma, collective guilt, reconciliation, and the Nazi genocides.—Karen Okamoto, John Jay Coll. of Criminal Justice Lib., New York
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780887849596
  • Publisher: House of Anansi Press
  • Publication date: 3/30/2010
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 156
  • Sales rank: 1,539,926
  • Product dimensions: 5.08 (w) x 8.04 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Collective Guilt? 5

The Presence of the Past 23

Mastering the Past through Law? 43

Forgiveness and Reconciliation 67

Prudence and Corruption 89

Stories about the Past 117

Acknowledgments 141

About the Author 143

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