Set in Nazi Germany, Eric Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer: pastor, mártir, profeta, espía (Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy) (Thomas Nelson, $ 19.99) tells the story of the Lutheran pastor that conspired against the Third Reich. The author writes with passion about Bonhoeffer’s extraordinary life, his faith and the fate of the nation he tried to save from Hitler. Metaxas spoke to TintaFresca about his latest book.
Bonhoeffer is your second best-selling biography, after William Wilberforce, Amazing Grace. What is your key to writing successful biographies?
Choosing to tell the stories of people as inspiring and exciting as Bonhoeffer and Wilberforce is the key. When you start with stories that are already gripping and profound, you have solved most of the problem. I also think giving the reader the historical context and explaining what was going on during these periods is important.
What motivated you to write about Bonhoeffer’s life?
Many things. First, Bonhoeffer’s story is one that should be much more known than it is, and I couldn’t believe that a popular biography of his life had never been written before. It was about time, I thought. But also the idea that this is a story of a man who did the right thing because of his faith. We hear so many negative stories about faith, but to read about a heroic and brilliant man who did the right thing because of what he believed-that’s the sort of story I want to read, and so it’s the story that I wanted to write. Finally, my mother is German. She grew up during this period and lost her father in the war.
The biography highlights Bonhoeffer’s Christian background as well as his political stance against Hitler; would you say the book is religious or political?
It’s mainly historical, but it touches on many things, including politics and religion. But the main thing is that it’s a fascinating story of a man who lived heroically during a dark period, who shone a light in that darkness.
You have said that the parallels of Germany then and the United States today are stunning; can you explain how?
I think any reader will see the parallels, but I didn’t try to make them obvious. It’s not just with the U.S. There are many countries going through similar things right now. When you see economies slipping into terrible states of disrepair, people can lose sight of important moral problems and can open the door to real evil.
Added to Pastor and Martyr, you describe Bonhoeffer as a Prophet and a Spy. In what way was he both?
I’ll leave this one to the reader. I’ll only say that this is precisely why he’s such a fascinating and timeless figure. It’s what makes his story something too good to make up. This one has to be true.
About the author
Eric Metaxas, born in New York, graduated from Yale University. His reviews on film, essays and poetry are published in U.S. media.