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Guilt: Stories Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 31, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (January 31, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780307599490
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307599490
  • ASIN: 0307599493
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,221,579 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"[Von Schirach is] an exceptional prose stylist . . . There's a trick to many of his stories, one that works every time. A narrator describes a terrible crime in a controlled tone that withholds judgment and even verges on amusement. That tone is von Schirach's great achievement: understated, resigned, worldly, hard-boiled." —The New York Times Book Review

"These are compressed, matter-of-fact accounts which...often read like existential parables that probe the limits of the law in exploring the mysteries of the human heart and psyche . . . Though the narratives are often as terse as the best hard-boiled crime fiction, the most compelling tales have a philosophical dimension reminiscent of Kafka or Camus." —Kirkus

"Von Schirach describes each case in a straightforward, unemotional manner that makes each story all the more searing. The emotional impact of these tales is powerful; no crime novelist could invent stories more unsettling . . . The question of guilt and innocence, how an individual’s case adjudicated in court, and the consequences of being involved—even tangentially—in a criminal act, will resonate." —Library Journal

About the Author

Ferdinand von Schirach was born in Munich in 1964. Since 1994, he has worked as a criminal defense lawyer in Berlin. Among his clients have been the former member of the Politburo Günter Schabowski, the former East German spy Norbert Juretzko, and members of the underworld.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 54 customer reviews
These short stories have a collection of characters who seem to move in and then out of the narrator's life.
iGertrude
I just had a hard time caring about most of the characters in the stories perhaps because they are so very short it was over before I could care.
K-cee Kit
It's a particular type of war where being innocent doesn't always mean being vindicated and guilty doesn't always mean being wrong.
Jill I. Shtulman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By J from NY VINE VOICE on December 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Ferdinand Von Schirach's collection "Guilt" is one of the gut-level affecting collection of short stories I have read from any author in the past two years.

His prose style is reminiscent of Flannery O' Connor, Thomas Bernhard, Par Latgervist and any number of writers who drive reality home like a dentist drill into a cavity. Though the title is pretty accurate--what he is doing here is exploring the complexities of crime in relation to one of those central human emotions, guilt--he runs the gamut of what one can do in 143 pages.

Adopting the persona of a defense lawyer, each story ends on a sort of open note of tragedy, or occasionally on a note of semi triumph. A with a happy life and a beautiful wife is accused of sexually molesting two of his underage female students. In a particularly standout story (though all of them really are) a Korean man is found with a red briefcase containing photographs of corpses with stakes driven through their hearts. The quiet tone of each tale contains an explosive globule, a commentary on the human condition as one of misperceptions and haywire human emotions. Not once is Schirach anything but subdued which makes the writing even more powerful.

Sometimes one finds obscure collections that almost make it, sort of make it, or don't make it at all. This one makes it in spades. I plan on ordering Schirach's earlier work. I'm not far from calling this collection a masterpiece. Not to be missed by any lover of literature.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John Williamson TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
There are some books to which one looks forward with eager anticipation when one hears of its release, and Ferdinand von Schirach's Guilt was for me one of those. Had a friend who had read his earlier work of short stories, Crime, which had also been translated by Carol Brown Janeway. My friend had highly recommended it, so this was one to which I was really looking forward.

Ferdinand von Schirach is one of Germany's most high-profile lawyers, a criminal defense attorney with a high profile practice in Berlin who turned to writing two years ago. His grandfather was Baldur von Schirach, the head of the Hitler Youth for much of the 1930s, and after his capture by Allied troops at the end of the war was eventually sentenced to 20 years for crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg trials. With a background like this, my anticipation that this was going to be an interesting book was high.

As sometimes happens, expectation can be a bit higher than the realities we find.

Author von Schirach's Guilt is a slim volume of fifteen separate vignettes, individual short stories seemingly based on factual incidents. The nameless narrator is a criminal defense lawyer, one who represents or counsels his clients. The crimes involved range from the mundane to the peculiar; the comprehensible to the horrific. Some of his clients come out as innocent and some are jailed. The narrator is no attorney from a John Grisham novel, but a capable and sympathetic legal representative, and does his job as expected.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Brody TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Ferdinand Van Shirach has written a book of vignettes about crimes from the vantage point of a defense lawyer's perspective. Van Shirach lives in Germany and works as a criminal defense lawyer. I assume that these vignettes are based on cases he has observed.

The cases vary in severity. In one, a girl is brutally assaulted and raped. Unbeknownst to her she is pregnant and gives birth to a stillborn child. In another vignette there is a brass band consisting of nine members. Eight of the men are involved in the rape and brutal assault of a young woman. Because the evidence is compromised, no DNA is available and there is no hard evidence to prove who the eight guilty men are. One of the men is innocent and so they all get off. In another vignette, a man asks a young man and his girlfriend, both beggars, to his home and tragedy ensues. The vignettes are all about guilt or exoneration, the past and the present and how one can make peace with injustice.

All in all, I found this book rather uninteresting. It reads like several little crime novels without the meaty aspects that one would expect from this genre.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By DanD VINE VOICE on January 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Ferdinand von Schirach's collection GUILT is an intriguing little volume. Comprised of fifteen short stories (I lose the term loosely, but also literally) based on real crimes, they detail the various interpretations of the titular theme, often involving poignant events depicting less-than-perfect characters. In "The Illuminati," for example, a loner art student becomes the victim of a hoax, which in turn affects the one person who may have inspired him to better things; in "Children," a man is accused of sexually assaulting a minor, and punished for the rest of his life, though the guilt may lie elsewhere; and in "DNA," a pair of criminals are guilty of a crime that was, oddly enough, entirely out of their control.

The rest of the stories follow a similar suit, and though interesting, the quirk eventually wears off. Von Schirach's prose (which may be the fault of translator Carol Brown Janeway; no real way of knowing, of course) is delightfully terse and to-the-point, but the collection comes off feeling shallow, incomplete, almost like a TIME-LIFE compendium. True crime devotees will be off-put by the character development and ambiguity; fiction aficionados will be left confused by the short, segmented story structure (set up almost like parables, except there's too much detail).

The result are stories that are interesting in theory, but shallow in practice. Kudos to von Shirach for bringing personality, irony, and character to true-life cases; but these don't come across as fictionalized recreations, even though they're supposed to. GUILT is an interesting collection, and perhaps worth some attention, but it's ultimately not what it could (or should) have been, and when it comes to art--even art based on real life--that is the ultimate crime.
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