Guilt about the Past

Bernhard Schlink

University of Queensland Press 2009
A book review by Danny Yee © 2009
In six essays, originally presented as the Weidenfeld Lectures at Oxford in 2008, writer and professor of law Bernhard Schlink addresses various aspects of guilt about the past, with a focus on post-war Germany.

He looks at the history of ideas of collective guilt, going back to early Germanic law and exploring the notion of community solidarity.

He compares the legacy of the Holocaust for different generations. (Schlink himself was born in 1944.)

He considers attempts to deal with the past through law, and in particular the legal status of retroactive punishment.

He presents a taxonomy of concepts of forgiving and condemning, remembering and forgetting, and reconciliation.

He uses an example of a law student involved with rioting in 1970, seeking admission to an association of law professors in 1992, to illustrate how prudence can abet corruption.

And he considers the problems facing literary representations of the past, and in particular fictional treatments of the Holocaust.

The essays in Guilt about the Past are at a fairly high level of generality, but offer a variety of ideas and perspectives.

April 2009

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%T Guilt about the Past
%A Schlink, Bernhard
%I University of Queensland Press
%D 2009
%O paperback
%G ISBN-13 9780702237140
%P 141pp