Baker Academic

Thursday, January 9, 2014

I Repent of My Kneejerk Dismissal of this Book - Le Donne

I really don't know how I could have been more wrong. I mean, it really isn't like me to be wrong about anything except important life decisions and whatnot.

A few years ago, back when I was devouring every book and article that dealt with "memory," I acquired a copy of Miroslav Volf's The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World.  I read a couple chapters and decided that it wasn't going to help me much.  I was looking for a technical discussion of theory and this book just didn't have enough gymnastics. To my detriment, it has sat on my shelf ever since.

Worse, I have been asked about this book by colleagues a handful of times. They would ask, "Hey, have you seen that book by Volf?" I would reply with a mild, "yes, not bad, but..." answer.  If you were one of those poor, misguided souls who took my faint praise as a poor review, I apologize.

This book is great. Great. I honestly think that I just needed more mature eyes by which to read the thing. Moreover, it is the model of great writing. Indeed, one would do well to read this book just to see what good academic writing looks like without jargon. It balances theology, memory theory, historiography and social/psychological dynamics quite well.

If you're already reading Kirk, Lowenthal, Schroeter, and Zerubavel, the theoretical contributions of this book are going to seem old hat. But if you're interested in how memory relates to forgiveness, trauma, loving one's enemy, worship, and other larger theological topics, I do hope that you have a look at this book. Buyer beware, however, you might end up thinking about your life differently after reading this book.

Suggest it to your book club. Use that gift card you got for Kwanzaa. Teach a Sunday school class with it. Make it required reading for your senior seminar. Do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around while you read it. That's what it's all about.



  1. Bravo, Anthony: it's the mark of a big man to admit when he's made an error.

    1. Steve, one of my new years resolutions is to be a bit less big, but thanks anyway.

  2. I really like most of Volf's writing, especially his book "Free of Charge" which is a wonderful distillation of previous work on reconciliation and forgiveness. His work on memory is relevant to the important question of how memories can be redemptively ‘traced over’ without nullifying the reality of the past.