The Wages of Guilt is subtitled Memories of War in Germany and Japan. But it is really far more, an exploration of the many and varied ways in which cataclysm has shaped national identity in our century.... The import of Mr. Buruma’s work is not limited to the losers of World War II. The very idea that a nation can and should be held accountable for its history, that a people can collectively experience remorse, guilt, or atonement, is one of our age.
—The New York Times Book Review
It would be difficult to find anyone better suited than Ian Buruma to reflect upon the questions of why these national attitudes should be so different.... He is thoroughly familiar with the politics and culture of both Japan and Germany, has traveled widely in both countries, and speaks their languages fluently.
—The New York Review of Books
Will fascinate readers even as it recalls painful images.... [Buruma] is less interested in finding heroes and villains than in teasing out nuances of national character.
The Wages of Guilt augments [Buruma’s] body of cultural criticism with a brilliant lucidity that guides the reader through a thicket of varying responses to the historical black hole that has been deemed inconceivable.
—The Boston Globe
His knowledge of cultural and intellectual life is impressive.... This book reflects interestingly on why Japanese and German attitudes differ so remarkably.
Highlights the elusive nature of historical truth, which often takes a backseat to the myth-making needed to soothe the collective conscience.
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
A clear portrait of two peoples trying to come to terms with their own unspeakable behaviors.
—The Wall Street Journal
This thought-provoking inquiry has a powerful theme: people must be held accountable for the society in which they live.
...absorbing and important...
As in God’s Dust (1989), Buruma takes a psychological and cultural voyage into nationalism, guilt, and self-delusion—in this case, of two of WWII’s defeated Axis powers...The book ranges wide and deep in its search for disparate voices in both [German and Japanese] societies: editors, intellectuals, writers, artists, activists. Buruma’s easy familiarity with Japan enables him to dig under the skin of national attitudes in a way that is rare for a Western commentator...All in all, a thoughtful, patiently assembled book that probes carefully and with moral toughness into precisely those painful truths.