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A Train of Powder [Anglais] [Broché]

Rebecca West

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A Train of Powder Written between 1946 and 1954, these accounts of four controversial trials explore the nature of crime and punishment, innocence and guilt, retribution and forgiveness. "Astonishing." Francine Prose. Full description

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Amazon.com: 4.7 étoiles sur 5  3 commentaires
23 internautes sur 25 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Questions the Assumptions We Make About Punishment 17 juin 2008
Par Stacey M Jones - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
The headnote for A TRAIN OF POWDER: SIX REPORTS ON THE PROBLEM OF GUILT AND PUNISHMENT IN OUR TIME by Rebecca West is, "Our God is not out of breath, because he has blown one tempest, and swallowed a Navy: our God hath not burned out his eyes, because he has looked upon a train of powder." by John Donne. But I think West's point may be that mankind can get out of breath trying to blow out the tempest of determining guilt and innocence. This book is an examination of this situation, and in true West form, it's an insightful, enlightening and enriching examination. It took me about two weeks to read this 310-page book.

I found this book because I was tracking down a rumor that Rebecca West had written a book on the Nuremburg trials that was similar to her masterpiece Black Lamb and Gray Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia, which is one of the top five books I've read in my life. I could not track down this book until I read a biography of West, and I learned that this was the book. It is not the tour de force that Black Lamb is, but it is West; therefore, it is worth your time!

West writes six essays considering the issue of guilt and punishment in our time (well, 20th century, but it's cogent). Three of the essays are about how to distribute the guilt for WWII -- the holocaust and the partition of Berlin -- and are written over eight years as West investigates these issues and follows the results of the trials. And these essays are thoughtful, illuminating and they crystallize much of the thinking that spins around large issues like this. These essays, "Green House with Cyclamens" I, II and III focus on the humanity of all the players, their own lenses and their goals. She writes of the sentencing, "For when society has to hurt a man it must hurt him as little as possible and must preserve what it can of his pride, lest there should spread in that society those feelings which make men do the things for which they get hanged" (p. 41).

West shines even more, though, in the other three essays, "Opera in Greenville," "Mr. Setty and Mr. Hume" and "The Better Mousetrap," which deal with a racial lynching, a brutal murder and a British spy case, respectively. While the Nuremburg trials are "large," these essays focus on more local aspects of guilt and punishment, which allows West to work more at the knot of human guilt and what other humans can ever really do about it.

"Mr. Setty and Mr. Hume" was my favorite piece, as it examines in depth a brutal murder in London along with all the ambiguities of what can be known about guilt and innocence in the case. I could not put this essay down! And what is brilliant about it is that while West engages in an exhaustive examination about what is known about the crime, she doesn't prescribe what should be done about it, because the culpability is so vague.

What West does so well, as take a cloud of vague sentiment or knowledge and crystallize it into a single sharp point. This whole book leads back to the idea that the facts of most crimes lead intelligent individuals to multiple conclusions -- and that is the problem of guilt in our time.

The Donne quote goes on thus:

"In the light of Heaven, and in the darkness of hell, he sees alike; he sees not onely all Machinations of hands, when things come to action; but all Imaginations of hearts, when they are in their first Consultations; past, and present, and future, distinguish not his Quando; all is one time to him: Mountains and Vallies, Sea and Land, distinguish not his Ubi; all is one place to him..." THIS is what a human being CANNOT do when it comes to guilt and innocence, and West invites us at least to consider this issue as we seek to create just societies.

I highly recommend this book, not only for the point as I've expressed it above, but also for the brilliant, engaging writing and the stories that West is able to tell and the context in which she relays them.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Beyond Nuremberg 13 février 2013
Par Kirsten - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
If you're looking for a book dealing solely with the subject of the post-World War II Nuremberg trials, this one won't satisfy your thirst, despite the product description.

However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't give West's book your attention. The book is actually a series of short stories, all dealing with trials occurring in the aftermath of World War II. She begins with an account of Nuremberg, and the details West is known for shine through in her descriptions of the accused, of the town, of the supporting characters all shine. But she also delves deeper, giving insight into what she feels is the true goal of international law.

Some of the other stories are even stronger. West describes the trial of a man accused of murder, who allegedly threw the pieces of the body into the sea. Again, the details are poignant: she presents both sides of the story, describes the marsh and the family of the man who found the body, the wife of the accused. These are small pieces, often left unnoticed in accounts that chillingly recite facts.

Over and over, West contemplates the guilt of the accused, and often the reasons behind bringing him to stand trial. Her observations are nuanced, and rather than a simple rendering of both sides of the story, you can almost imagine that she's having an inner dialog with herself.
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Every five years 29 janvier 2014
Par amityshlaes - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
Go back to "Train of Powder" every five years to remind yourself of the quality we seek in cultural reporting.
West's portrait of Lord Haw Haw, William Joyce, cannot be forgotten. Also recommend, but not for every five years, the film "The Last Hangman."
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