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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: 8.6 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 (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,440,871 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.

Customer Reviews

The stories were originally written in German and it may be that something was lost in the translation.
Shannan
I found myself reading them with initial interest and then the story would just end and I was left confused.
Seek Felicity
These short stories have a collection of characters who seem to move in and then out of the narrator's life.
LookinG for Trouble

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 500 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By amazonbuyer on February 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Ferdinand von Schirach's prose is pared down and he chose understatement rather than overstatement in the presentation of his stories. This is because the stories speak for themselves and need no embellishment. The tone is not pensive, but the stories definitely gave me pause regarding human nature and the consequences of the choices we make.

The stories are loosely connected. This did not bother me, as each one had it's own merit in a collection of interesting cases recounted by a German defense attorney. As I finished the book, I had the thought that Quinten Tarantino might find some of these stories quite inspiring.

I enjoyed learning a little bit about the German law and it's application. It was interesting to see how some judges were willing and able to find ways to make the law work more fairly in cases that weren't foreseen ("Comparison") and how others were not ("DNA"). Though I am sure there are many differences between American and German law, it was interesting to see the fact that there is one sad common bond that all defense lawyers share at the beginning of their careers ("Funfair").

Some of the the stories expose the depravity, loneliness, and/ or cruelty that we wish were only the creation of an author's mind ("The Illuminati", "Children", "The Other Man"), others bring a welcome lightness in the midst of the dark ("The Key, "Secrets"), and one brings a sense of relief at the dispensing of an unexpected poetic justice ("Anatomy"). Two of the stories were interesting and yet ultimately perplexing ("The Briefcase" and "Snow"). For me, one of the least sensational stories became the most interesting ("Family"). This is because the main character was a man who did not allow his heredity determine his destiny.

All in all this was a very interesting read. if you don't like reading about the bizarre and violent choices human beings make, this is not the book for you. It is not gratuitous, but it is not sanitized either.
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