I was reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Conspiracy and Imprisonment 1940-1945 and came upon, again, a moment that gave startling insight into Bonhoeffer’s character. It also raised questions. The passage was from a letter he wrote to his dear friend, Eberhard Bethge on Jaunaury 25, 1941:
The Schiller film [a reference to Friedrich Schiller, directed by Herbert Maisch (1940)] that I recently saw, was terrible: pathetic, clichéd, phony, unreal, unhistorical, badly acted, kitsch! Go see it yourself. [DBWE16:128]
I laughed out loud reading this passage. After a string of invective against this film (about which I know nothing), Bonhoeffer tells his friend to “Go see it yourself.” It made me sit back and wonder–why is it that Bonhoeffer thinks the film is still worth seeing? He doesn’t explain further; merely writes “This is the way I imagined Schiller as a junior in high school” (ibid). But it’s clear something about it struck him as an aspect of the film that his friend would enjoy. It’s a private, shared moment that we as readers get insight into.
It also made me think of how much humor and delight–and speculation!–there is in reading the collected works of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Moments like this are found in abundance. They’re insights into private, shared ideas, funny asides, and stirring insights that can be appreciated more the more one reads Bonhoeffer (and about him). Another example that has had long term impact on me is the realization that Bonhoeffer was dedicated to reading the Moravian Daily Texts and discussing them. This is an insight that I came upon reading Laura Fabrycky’s excellent Keys to Bonhoeffer’s Haus (my review here).
But only by reading these lengthy volumes in detail will one stumble upon these wonderful morsels of wisdom, humor, and delight. Readers will also come upon so many more questions, like the one I mentioned above–why does Bonhoeffer want his friend to watch a movie he clearly hated? But it is this kind of thing that spurs scholarship, and indeed curiosity, forward.
So let me encourage you–if you’re interested in Dietrich Bonhoeffer, go get the collected works. Pick a volume that strikes your interest, pore over its text and notes, and join me in a journey of delight, humor, questions, and insights.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer– read all my posts related to Bonhoeffer and his theology.
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