Monday, December 1, 2014

Bonhoeffer (Abridged) - A Review

A Review

Metaxas’ almost classic biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer was written in 2010.  At 600+ pages, it is a scholarly work worth reading - but it is long.  Now, in 2014, Metaxas has written an abridged version of the biography.  The book still reads like a scholarly work - but with about one-third the pages, it is a somewhat gentler book.  The book is well-referenced with quotes and footnotes providing adequate source material for those seeking follow-up information.  Of course, the first step in finding additional information would be the addition of a copy of the original book.

Having not read the original, I am not in a position to make a comparison between the two.  In addition, other than saying the book is an abridgement of the original, there are no comments (either in an introduction or a postlude) detailing what principles used as the book was shortened for the current edition. I can only remember my writing professor’s comment, “Leave out whatever you can.”  Perhaps, Metaxas has finally done just that.  This does not parallel Metaxas’ reputation as a writer, so it will be for those more familiar with both works to comment on the changes made in this rewritten biography.

The one thing missing from the book is a map of pre-World War II Europe and the world.  Given Bonhoeffer’s propensity for travel throughout the Germanic world, Europe and the rest of the world, a map showing regions and cities of importance to his life would have helped in understanding the contacts that he made.  The reader will want to have a map (paper or digital) available for reference as he or she reads.

Thus ends my review of the book. Of far more importance is the life of the man whose story is told in its pages.  Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran by training, was a Christian who saw the church as the family of believers, wherever they lived or found themselves.  He saw believers gathered in Rome to celebrate Mass in the presence of the Pope.  He saw believers in a Black church in the inner city of New York. He worked along with brothers and sisters in the resistance to battle the evils brought by Hitler and his henchman.  

Throughout his life he practiced the spiritual disciplines that would allow him to live in peace even as he spent months in three different prison cells - even praying on the his way to the gallows that would eventually take his life.  Bonhoeffer may have been a pastor, a martyr, a prophet, and a spy.  But more than anything else he was man who loved God.

This review is based on a free copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

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