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Crime: Stories (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – Rauer Buchschnitt, 11. Januar 2011
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“Crime would command the attention due a carnival freak-show if von Schirach’s crisp, swift prose did not lend it such laconic authority. Save in the sparest of hints, he shuns forensic psychology. Each tale whips along, a shock at every turn, like some beast with eyes of red-hot coal panting down a forest track at night. For, courtroom procedure aside, the spirit of the German-language Märchen really drives this book: eerie tales of the uncanny, as practiced by Hoffmann, Kleist, the Grimms, and even Kafka.” —Independent (UK)
"Mesmerizing. . .a slim, utterly absorbing collection of 11 stories. . .told in a cool, patient voice that draws the reader in. Von Schirach guides us through the unpredictable sequences of events that can maneuver regular, flawed people into unbearable positions, leading them to abhorrent acts. . .[He] has the talent to dazzle." --New York Times Book Review
"An extraordinary book about ordinary crime, written with suspense, insight, and beautiful precision by an experienced defense attorney. An authentic thriller." --Bernhard Schlink, author of The Reader
Provocative, shocking and brilliant, Crime may change the way you judge the world. -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Taschenbuch.Alle Produktbeschreibungen
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In each story the nameless attorney character makes an appearance as legalities ensue. These stories reveal a writer who has found a way to merge humor, tragedy, violence, and absurdity with an economy of form that is quite stunning. I started reading the book one evening just to try it out since I had never heard of this author. I got into it and I simply could not put it down. I finally stopped with a couple of stories left to savor. I did not want this book to end. Truly fabulous stuff!
Ferdinand von Schirach is a criminal defense lawyer in Berlin, Germany. He has defended the famous and infamous, and here he tells some of their stories. His uncle was a judge and a soldier in World War II. His grandfather was convicted of crimes against humanity at Nuremberg. There is a history here, and the stories von Schirach tells all come from the heart and most involve guilt of some sort. There are eleven stories, all different and all are mesmerizing in their own right.
'Self Defense' may be my favorite story. A man at a train station defends himself from two criminals, the fact that he does not say a word at any time, to anyone, raises the level. The District Attorney and the Defense Attorney vie against each other, and the man continues to remain silent. How do you defend a man who does not speak, it can be done. 'The Thorn' may be the most unusual of stories, a museum guard patrols and guards the same room for some twenty odd years. He comes slightly unhinged, and his journey is one to behold. 'Tanata's Tea Bowl' may be one of the most gruesome crimes, but the story underneath is the reality. The other eight stories are as fascinating.
The characters are rich and full of life. Their stories are told by the author and narrator, but the words come from the characters. The road to their crime is told from their perspective, and the author fills in the voice of the law. Ferdinand von Schirach gives us a base of German law, and how it is practiced. There may be a different format but essentially the law is the same in Germany and the United Sates. There is good and then there is bad, and then we have the legal system. We get a glimpse of the man and his make-up, and the hope is that more stories are on their way.
Highly Recommended. prisrob 01-23-11
The book exemplifies well, and graphically, how criminal lawyers are exposed to the outer fringes of human behavior and the subterranean depths of the human psyche. Several of the stories are as outré and tragic as the Oedipus myth. Part of what makes the collection especially gripping is von Schirach's calm, measured prose. (On occasion, it becomes distinguished in its originality - for example, referring to the soon-to-be beheaded harpy, "Ingrid's metallic voice laid down animosity after animosity like railroad tracks.") Another aspect that enhanced the reading experience for me was that the stories take place in Germany. Hence, I was exposed to first-hand accounts of the widespread social disfunctionality, and criminality, that marks the lives of many immigrants from the Middle East; differences in criminal practice and procedure between Germany and the United States; and odd trivia of life in Berlin - where, for example, they sell fifteen times as many baseball bats as baseballs (a metal bat being a favored piece of a young goon's arsenal).
But what ultimately underlies the force of CRIME is that the stories, ostensibly, are true. If they were presented as fiction, the book would only be so much wood pulp (and any reviews of it probably would criticize some of the stories as being beyond credibility). In this regard, I am at the mercy of the publisher (here, Alfred A. Knopf) and author von Schirach. (I am curious as to whether Knopf advises bookstores to shelve the book under fiction or non-fiction.) The epigraph, from Werner K. Heisenberg, is a little disquieting: "The reality we can put into words is never reality itself." So, the $64,000 question is: Are these "stories" fact or fiction? Perhaps I am a sucker - it wouldn't be the first time in my life - but I will come down on the side of non-fiction and thus recommend it as a five-star work.
P.S.: I have one other nagging reservation. Several times von Schirach mentions the attorney-client privilege, and I gather that it is substantially the same in Germany as it is here in the United States. And if that's the case, I am a little uneasy accepting that, in all instances and all details, he was free from ethical obligations of confidentiality or, alternatively, that his clients consented to the publication of otherwise confidential information (the story "Love" is particularly troublesome in this regard). But then, if the stories are fiction, this concern dissipates.
It is unclear whether these 11 stories of contemporary German crime, are fiction or non-fiction. I suspect that they are largely fiction, but, like much good fictional literature, most likely they have their roots in the author's experiences. Regardless, the stories are mesmerizing. While each tale is quite different, there is a common thread of guilt, and perhaps evil, which runs through them. Schirach's tone is conversational, and his power as a story teller derives from the simplicity and directness of his language, which avoids the usual hyperbole found in so much crime drama. Although each story can be picked up and read at any time, I suspect that many readers, like me, will finish this volume in one or two sittings.
This is not a book by a lawyer, written for lawyers. However, I gained a lot of knowledge about criminal law procedures, and about the philosophy of modern German legal practice, which have much to commend themselves to those of us who have been brought up on the English common law system and are unaware that there are other approaches to justice available.