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"The Man in the Pulpit" is a courageous autobiographical novel by the distinguished and widely praised German novelist Ruth Rehmann. Its narrator, like Rehmann herself, is a middle-class citizen of West Germany in the 1970s--more than a quarter century after the horrors of the Nazi years. Prodded by questions from her children, the narrator begins to reexamine her childhood and the father--a stern, imposing Lutheran minister--who dominated it. Her memories lead her to a fresh, painful understanding of how her father (who died in 1940) tragically reconciled himself to the moral and political outrages of National Socialism. The father's moral compromises stand in large measure for the failures of Germany as a whole. His critical views of the Weimar Republic, his "apolitical" stance in the face of Nazi aggression, the unsatisfactory guidance he offers his family and parishioners--all contribute to the portrait of a man who fails to find sufficient moral understanding and resolve in the face of the Nazi nightmare. As her story unfolds, Rehmann provides uncommon insights into how the terrible alliance in Germany between "those who were honorable and those who were dishonorable" could have occurred. From the opening memory of father and daughter walking together, singing and joking, to the final deathbed scene, there is no episode, no emotion that does not vibrate with restrained intensity. The relationship between daughter and father is both distant and intimate, simple and complex, happy and angry, and it always takes place in a larger historical context.
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