Beautiful Souls: Saying No, Breaking Ranks, and Heeding the Voice of Conscience in Dark Times

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Beautiful Souls: Saying No, Breaking Ranks, and Heeding the Voice of Conscience in Dark Times

by Eyal Press

Farrar, Straus And Giroux | February 14, 2012 | Hardcover

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On the Swiss border with Austria in 1938, a police captain refuses to enforce a law barring Jewish refugees from entering his country. In the Balkans half a century later, a Serb from the war-blasted city of Vukovar defies his superiors in order to save the lives of Croats. At the height of the Second Intifada, a member of Israel's most elite military unit informs his commander he doesn't want to serve in the occupied territories.

Fifty years after Hannah Arendt examined the dynamics of conformity in her seminal account of the Eichmann trial, Beautiful Souls explores the flipside of the banality of evil, mapping out what impels ordinary people to defy the sway of authority and convention. Through the dramatic stories of unlikely resisters who feel the flicker of conscience when thrust into morally compromising situations, Eyal Press shows that the boldest acts of dissent are often carried out not by radicals seeking to overthrow the system but by true believers who cling with unusual fierceness to their convictions. Drawing on groundbreaking research by moral psychologists and neuroscientists, Beautiful Souls culminates with the story of a financial industry whistleblower who loses her job after refusing to sell a toxic product she rightly suspects is being misleadingly advertised. At a time of economic calamity and political unrest, this deeply reported work of narrative journalism examines the choices and dilemmas we all face when our principles collide with the loyalties we harbor and the duties we are expected to fulfill.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 208 pages, 8.55 × 5.95 × 0.81 in

Published: February 14, 2012

Publisher: Farrar, Straus And Giroux

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0374143420

ISBN - 13: 9780374143428

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– More About This Product –

Beautiful Souls: Saying No, Breaking Ranks, and Heeding the Voice of Conscience in Dark Times

by Eyal Press

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 208 pages, 8.55 × 5.95 × 0.81 in

Published: February 14, 2012

Publisher: Farrar, Straus And Giroux

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0374143420

ISBN - 13: 9780374143428

About the Book

Fifty years after Hannah Arendt examined the dynamics of conformity in her seminal account of the Eichmann trial, "Beautiful Souls" explores the flipside of the banality of evil, mapping out what impels ordinary people to defy the sway of authority and convention.

Read from the Book

1. DISOBEYING THE LAW     I. Underhanded Practices One night in November 1938, a fourteen-year-old boy named Erich Billig slipped across the Austrian border into Switzerland. It was, he hoped, the final leg of a hastily arranged journey that had begun ten days earlier, on November 9–10, when Billig and Jews throughout Vienna hid in their apartments or ducked for cover while Nazi storm troopers led a bloody rampage through the streets. In the organized pogrom known as Kristallnacht, which turned Austria’s stately capital into a cauldron of terror and violence, hundreds of Jewish shops were vandalized, dozens of temples burned down, and scores of injuries and fatalities recorded. The shattered storefronts and smoldering synagogues left little doubt what the unification of Austria and Germany, which Adolf Hitler had announced before cheering throngs of jubilant supporters in Vienna’s Heldenplatz (“Heroes’ Square”) in March, would mean for Jews. Erich Billig already had a sense. A few months earlier his father had been deported to Dachau, a concentration camp near Munich; his older brother, Herbert, had fled the country after landing on the Gestapo’s wanted list, and was now in Zurich. After Kristallnacht, Billig’s mother, Hilde, put her youngest son on a train bound for Altach, a town near the Swiss border, where he holed up in an abandoned shed and pondered how to get to Zurich himself. There was one problem: Switzerland
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From the Publisher

On the Swiss border with Austria in 1938, a police captain refuses to enforce a law barring Jewish refugees from entering his country. In the Balkans half a century later, a Serb from the war-blasted city of Vukovar defies his superiors in order to save the lives of Croats. At the height of the Second Intifada, a member of Israel's most elite military unit informs his commander he doesn't want to serve in the occupied territories.

Fifty years after Hannah Arendt examined the dynamics of conformity in her seminal account of the Eichmann trial, Beautiful Souls explores the flipside of the banality of evil, mapping out what impels ordinary people to defy the sway of authority and convention. Through the dramatic stories of unlikely resisters who feel the flicker of conscience when thrust into morally compromising situations, Eyal Press shows that the boldest acts of dissent are often carried out not by radicals seeking to overthrow the system but by true believers who cling with unusual fierceness to their convictions. Drawing on groundbreaking research by moral psychologists and neuroscientists, Beautiful Souls culminates with the story of a financial industry whistleblower who loses her job after refusing to sell a toxic product she rightly suspects is being misleadingly advertised. At a time of economic calamity and political unrest, this deeply reported work of narrative journalism examines the choices and dilemmas we all face when our principles collide with the loyalties we harbor and the duties we are expected to fulfill.

About the Author

Eyal Press is an author and journalist based in New York.  His work has appeared in the New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, The Nation, The Raritan Review and numerous other publications.  A 2011 Schwartz fellow at the New America Foundation, he is the author of Absolute Convictions, and a past recipient of the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism.

Editorial Reviews

“A subtle and thoughtful book. . . Beautiful Souls gains much from its storytelling approach. It is rich in personal, circumstantial details that analytical thinkers in search of clear principles may overlook.” — The Economist “[ Beautiful Souls ] provides rich, provocative narratives of moral choice. . . In exploring [resisters''] courage, Press makes us wonder if we would have the strength to act against the crowd, and in so doing spread a bit of light in our dark times.” —Michael S. Roth, The Washington Post “An act of conscience describes an action motivated by loyalty to a conviction, but it usually requires the defiance of other loyalties. . . Press''s real achievement in this short book is not in his research or analysis, but in his refusal to flinch from that disquieting fact. . . He knows that those who act bravely are all the more likely to feel anguished, since they know what''s at stake. In some ways this book is a thoughtful gesture of support. That might sound like a small thing, but it''s not.” —Louisa Thomas, The New York Times Book Review “What makes you eager to push this book into the hands of the next person you meet are the small, still moments, epics captured in miniature. . . Mr. Press''s book is a hymn to the mystery of disobedience.” —Mark Oppenheimer, The New York Times “An intelligent . . . examination of moral courage and its consequences.” — Ki
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