THE SHAME AND THE SACRIFICE: The Life and Martydom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Edwin Robertson

THE SHAME AND THE SACRIFICE: The Life and Martydom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Satisfactory biography of the famed German theologian by a longtime Bonhoeffer scholar. Robertson places equal weight on Bonhoeffer's religion and on the social milieu that spawned it, making this as much a history of German despair and anger as it is a study of one man's spiritual odyssey. Each crucial event in Bonhoeffer's life--his study in America, participation in the ecumenical movement, work in the anti-Nazi underground, incarceration in Buchenwald, execution--is keyed to his response to political dilemmas and his grouping for a Christian ethnic suitable for an age rift with moral cowardice. This Bonhoeffer is public, social, external: the inner, secret Bonhoeffer remains subordinate, at times invisible (as, perhaps, Bonhoeffer preferred). As a result, this biography generates little feeling; we get the facts, but we don't feel we get the man. Or else we do get the man, but he's not quite as compelling as his tale, which grips us with its concluding noble sacrifice. Robertson's style--with its brambly syntax and its forest of exclamation marks (""The twins were particularly close and shared an early fascination with funerals!"")--serves only to underscore this distance. A solid but unspectacular addition to Bonhoeffer studies.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1988
Publisher: Macmillan