Come to This Court and Cry
*A TABLET AND WALL STREET JOURNAL BOOK OF THE YEAR*
Shortlisted for the Wingate Literary Prize
‘A tremendous feat of storytelling, propelled by numerous twists and revelations, yet anchored by a deep moral seriousness . . . Enthralling’ Guardian
‘Part detective story, part family history, part probing inquiry into how best to reckon with the horrors of a previous centuryv . . . Astonishing’ Patrick Radden Keefe, author of Empire of Pain
‘Outstanding’ Philippe Sands, author of The Ratline and East West Street
To probe the past is to submit the memory of one’s ancestors to a certain kind of trial. In this case, the trial came to me.
A few years ago Linda Kinstler discovered that a man fifty years dead – a former Nazi who belonged to the same killing unit as her grandfather – was the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation in Latvia. The proceedings threatened to pardon his crimes. They put on the line hard-won facts about the Holocaust at the precise moment that the last living survivors – the last legal witnesses – were dying.
Across the world, Second World War-era cases are winding their way through the courts. Survivors have been telling their stories for the better part of a century, and still judges ask for proof. Where do these stories end? What responsibilities attend their transmission, so many generations on? How many ghosts need to be put on trial for us to consider the crime scene of history closed?
In this major non-fiction debut, Linda Kinstler investigates both her family story and the archives of ten nations to examine what it takes to prove history in our uncertain century. Probing and profound, Come to this Court and Cry is about the nature of memory and justice when revisionism, ultra-nationalism and denialism make it feel like history is slipping out from under our feet. It asks how the stories we tell about ourselves, our families and our nations are passed down, how we alter them, and what they demand of us.
‘Kinstler reminds us of the dangerous instability of truth and testimony, and the urgent need, in the twenty-first century, to keep telling the history of the twentieth’ Anne Applebaum
‘A masterpiece’ Peter Pomerantsev
Linda Kinstler has achieved something truly unusual: a book that captures the paradoxes and nuances of memory politics in contemporary Eastern Europe, while at the same time invoking the trauma that past tragedies leave on individuals and families. Using rigorous, evocative prose, she reminds us of the dangerous instability of truth and testimony, and the urgent need, in the 21st century, to keep telling the history of the 20th -- Anne Applebaum Obviously a masterpiece. A book that makes the Holocaust fresh, slipping seamlessly between story, thinking, politics, poetry and the personal -- Peter Pomerantsev, author of THIS IS NOT PROPAGANDA Before reading (devouring) Come to This Court and Cry, I wouldn't have thought a book like this was even possible. A moving family portrait on top of a sensational whodunit murder on top of a brilliant mediation on memory, the law, and identity? And yet here it is. Linda Kinstler has threaded the needle. This book is many things, and yet it fits together perfectly . . . It's a marvel -- Menachem Kaiser, author of PLUNDER First I was moved, then I was gripped and now I am haunted by Linda Kinstler's astonishing new book -- Ben Judah, author of THIS IS LONDON The atrocities of the twentieth century have still not passed, still less the effects of the period's most pernicious secrets. Now a new generation is reckoning with the crimes of the Holocaust and the dark shadows of the Cold War. In this brilliant and compelling book, Linda Kinstler takes us back to Latvia, to her family history, and to a question which - in our new age of fascist-tolerance - is more urgent still: what is justice? -- Lyndsey Stonebridge Implicit in Kinstler's heart-breaking narrative is a key question. How, when the victims of these hideous crimes are all gone, can we uphold the truth and deny the deniers? -- Julia Boyd, author of TRAVELLERS IN THE THIRD REICH In this searching and powerful book, Linda Kinstler sets out to solve the mystery of her grandfather's role in the genocide of Latvia's Jews during World War II. But the questions she ends up confronting - about national pride, the need for heroes and the elusiveness of the past - couldn't be more relevant in the 21st century. Come to the Court and Cry is an exemplary work of investigative journalism and historical research, showing why writers like Kinstler are needed now more than ever -- Adam Kirsch In her completely absorbing and profound debut, Linda Kinstler sets out to solve a mystery - journeying from a murder scene in Uruguay to the former killing fields of Europe to unravel a family secret about her late grandfather - and in the process unearths vexing questions about the past and how we understand it. Part detective story, part family history, part probing inquiry into how best to reckon with the horrors of a previous century, Come To This Court and Cry is bracingly original, beautifully written, and haunting. An astonishing book -- Patrick Radden Keefe
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