In the charnel house that was Europe in the Second World War, there were few instances
of shining moral courage, let alone secular sainthood. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian and
Nazi resister was the exception. This emblematic figure risked his lifeand finally lost itthrough his
participation in a failed plot to assassinate Hitler and topple his regime. Saints and Villains gives
us this exemplary life in a sweeping narrative that is bold in conception and utterly convincing in its power
of imaginative reconstruction.
Here is Bonhoeffer experiencing the awakening of his social conscience while witnessing racism in the
United States during his studies at Union Theological Seminary; leading a breakaway church in Germany
as the Nazis rise to power; entering a dangerous liaison with a Jewish woman; undertaking perilous
clandestine meetings abroad under cover of official church and intelligence business; and living the dark
night of the soul in prison after the plotters fail in their assassination attempt.
Saints and Villains is a gripping and resonant novel that confronts the painful dilemmas that beset
righteous men in times of great evil, when sin and necessity seem entwined. It is historical fiction of a very
high order and of startling pertinence to our time.
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