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Guilt: Storiesby Ferdinand Von Schirach
Synopses & Reviews
On a sweltering day in August, a small town drunkenly celebrates its six-hundredth anniversary with a funfair when an anonymous tip leads police to find a young woman brutally beaten, raped, and thrown under the floorboards of the very stage on which her attackers had just played a polka. An eight-member brass band composed of respectable family men with respectable day jobs is charged with the crime. A neophyte defense lawyer, still wet behind the ears and breaking in his attaché case, takes on the trial, only to lose his innocence in the process.
So begins Guilt, Ferdinand von Schirach’s tense, riveting collection of stories based on real crimes he has known. In these brief, succinct tales, von Schirach calls into question the nature of guilt and the toll it takes—or fails to take—on ordinary people. In “The Illuminati,” the popular mean crowd at an all-boys’ boarding school wages a vicious attack against an outsider schoolmate, and ends up accidentally killing the boy’s beloved teacher. Attempting to hurdle through a midlife crisis, a housewife begins to steal trivial things no one will miss, an act that gives her a rush and staves off depression in “Desire.” And in “Snow,” an old man whose home is used as a way station for a heroin ring agrees to protect the identity of the lead drug runner, who receives his comeuppance in due course.
Compassionate and seen with the same cool, controlled eye that propelled Ferdinand von Schirach’s debut collection, Crime, onto best-seller lists, Guilt is a stunning follow-up from one of Germany’s finest new writers.
"Von Schirach (Crime) draws on his background as a criminal defense attorney in these fourteen stories — all based on real events — that call into question the nature of guilt and innocence. He does not pass judgment on his characters, opting instead to observe them through his sparse prose. In 'Children,' false accusations of sexual assault ruin the reputation of an innocent office furniture sales rep, and he considers murdering his accuser out of desperation. In 'DNA,' Nina and Thomas, a young homeless couple, get away with killing a man. Years later, once they have risen out of poverty, investigators find new evidence, reopen the case and bring the two in for questioning. The stories are rich with such details, as von Schirach consistently captures the humanity of his subjects and forces readers to reconsider the morality of their decisions. The most striking piece is 'Anatomy,' a brief but powerful journey into the mind of a man planning to kill a woman who had rejected him. The story is gruesome both in the details of his murderous plot and in the ethical quandary von Schirach presents when the man is struck dead by a speeding car before he can commit his crime. The driver is convicted of manslaughter, and readers are left wondering where guilt really lies. Though his stories are succinct, von Schirach manages to absorb, repulse, and shock readers through his economy of language in this transcendent collection. (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A remarkable follow-up to Crime, a new, haunting collection of stories based on real cases, told from a defense lawyer's perspective.
In "Funfair," a young defense attorney, still wet behind the ears and breaking in a new suit and attaché case, wins his first big case only to lose his innocence in the process. The popular crowd at an all-boys' boarding school wages a vicious attack against an outsider schoolmate, but end up accidentally killing the boy's beloved teacher in "The Illuminati." Attempting to hurdle through a midlife crisis, a housewife staves off depression with the rush she derives from the act of stealing in "Desire." And in "Snow," an old man whose home is used as a way station for a heroin ring agrees to protect the identity of the lead drug runner, who nonetheless receives his comeuppance. Fourteen stories calling into question the nature of guilt and the toll it takes--or fails to take--on ordinary people, and infused with Ferdinand von Schirach's hallmark cool solemnity and sympathy--Guilt is a stunning follow-up to his heralded debut.
About the Author
FERDINAND VON SCHIRACH was born in Munich in 1964. Since 1994, he has worked as a criminal defense lawyer in Berlin.
Translated from the German by Carol Brown Janeway
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