The Wages of Guilt: Memories of War in Germany and Japan
, 1995 - History
- 330 pages
The Wages of Guilt is a major work of cultural history, and one that only Ian Buruma could have written. Buruma is perhaps the West's leading commentator about Asian politics and culture, and he has a deep familiarity with Europe as well. His subject in this book is the legacy of World War II and the complicated and very different ways Germany and Japan have dealt with it. He contrasts the official propaganda in the former East Germany with West German efforts to come to terms with the Holocaust. In Japan, he looks into the polarized debate between those who wish to whitewash and forget and those who use Hiroshima and the Japanese atrocities in Asia to warn against resurgent militarism. In a mixture of essay and reportage, he paints a complex and provocative picture of East and West under the shadow of the Cold War. In the course of his investigation, he visits memorial sites, talks to politicians, intellectuals, and people in the streets, and analyzes the work of journalists, artists, and historians. Buruma's lively and comprehensive account of our two major allies and their diverging approaches to their own pasts illuminates profound questions of moral responsibility and national identity.