THE LAST DAYS OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFER by Donald Goddard

THE LAST DAYS OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The author of Joey (1974), a thoughtful biography of hoodlum Joey Gallo, here brings his skill and insight to the life of the great German theologian imprisoned and executed by the Nazis. Goddard's well-researched, imaginative reconstruction of Bonhoeffer's two years in prison is accessible and moving, a quiet drama of both endurance and ideas. He portrays Bonhoeffer before his arrest as a complex man: intellectual and idealistic, tormented by pride and doubt, addicted to cigarettes. Strong ties of Christian conviction, family loyalty, and class honor bound him to the predominantly aristocratic German resistance movement and to the Army plot to assassinate Hitler. Drawing heavily on Bonhoeffer's remarkable prison letters, Goddard reconstructs his experiences and feelings sparely, yet often as believably as if he had been a privileged witness. Here are the long interrogation sessions in which Bonhoeffer struggled not to implicate his friends, which read like courtroom drama; the longings for family and fiancÉe; the bombardment of Berlin, told in dazzling and sickening detail; and above all, the evolution of Bonhoeffer's thought under pressure of imprisonment towards a simpler, surer, more radical and compassionate faith. Here, too, is an unforgettable glimpse of the fate and responsibility of intelligence under the maddest and stupidest of tyrannies. If the events of the Army plot and the turnings of Bonhoeffer's theology are a little hard to follow for those not well acquainted with the context, it's only a minor flaw.

Pub Date: June 2nd, 1976
Publisher: Harper & Row