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

3.8 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"[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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (January 31, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307599493
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307599490
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,425,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Due to the recent phenomena of numerous crime shows appearing on television: the "C.S.I." programs, set in New York, Miami, and New Orleans; the latest version of "Hawaii 50"; "Cold Case"; and the Courtroom Dramas, such as "20/20", "48 Hours", and "Dateline", it is no wonder that the stories by Ferdinand von Schirach in his book, Guilt might be well-received in television format, except perhaps these stories may be considered too European, mundane, or twisted for prime time. They differ from these programs in other respects, as well. The police, detective, and investigator shows focus on finding, catching, and bringing the perpetrators to justice; and the courtroom shows zoom in on prosecutors proving the perpetrators actually committed the crime and then convincing the jury they did it. Most of them go to jail.
The stories in the book, on the other hand, have been filtered through the keenly perceptive and benevolent eyes of a tough-minded, Big City attorney. You can tell instantly from the manner and style of his prose that the author himself has been a highly successful public defender, touting years of experience under his belt and expert knowledge of the finer points of German juris prudence. Undoubtedly, he has been called "a damn good lawyer", who doesn't mince his words or pull any punches. Obviously, he has won the respect and admiration of his peers and judges alike throughout his long, illustrious career.
International in scope, most of his stories are about foreigners living in and adapting to life in Germany. The book is gushing with the spirit of diverse cultures.
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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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