ON FORGIVENESS: How Can We Forgive the Unforgivable?

Richard Holloway, Author . Canongate $14 (128p) ISBN 978-1-84195-358-8

Former Bishop of Edinburgh and a divinity professor in the City of London, Holloway offers deceptively simple reflections on the always compelling, ever-relevant subject of forgiveness. Refreshingly free from the extremes of rant and piety, the cosmopolitan cleric instead summons an eclectic and humanistic range of provocative thinkers, from Derrida to Nietzsche, and a generous sampling of contemporary British poetry. The prolific author of Godless Morality and 23 other books is fond of attention-grabbing Derridan paradox: Unforgivability is necessary in order to make forgiveness possible. We can practice religion—what it signifies—without the form of religion, yielding "religion without religion," which can also be seen in the phenomenon of people who are "spiritual but not religious." Although the book originated as lectures at Glasgow University, Holloway's point is hardly academic. He always applies his reasoning to real and historical examples: the Middle East, Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal, South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Holloway offers subtle guidance, the kind that is easiest to accept and therefore most effective. He is not imperative: forgiveness is a choice so hard that there is room for the unforgiving, and magnanimity and generosity may work as substitutes for forgiveness in the political arena. This slender book is a reminder that if enormous error is all too human, so too must be the capacity to forgive it and thereby transcend it and, as the author puts it, "reclaim the future." This is an estimable contribution to the growing current literature on forgiveness. (Oct. 7)

Reviewed on: 09/30/2002
Release date: 02/01/2002
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