Hooray! Bilger is back! He’s been absent from The New Yorker for almost two years. I’ve missed him. He’s one of the New Yorker greats, in my opinion – right up there with Liebling, Mitchell, McPhee, and Frazier. Now, here he is, with a terrific “Personal History” piece called “Ghost Stories,” set in Germany, in which he participates in a weird form of group therapy known as Familienaufstellung. His participation isn’t just for reporting purposes; it’s personally motivated. He says, “Like the others in the room, I was there to untangle a knot in my mind. I’d come to Germany to research the life of my grandfather Karl Gönner.” Gönner was born in Weil am Rhein, Germany. He fought in the First World War. During World War II, he was sent to Occupied France to work as a schoolteacher in an Alsatian village. He was also a member of the Nazis Party, and eventually became the village’s Ortsgruppenleiter, or Party chief. Bilger writes,
I devoured all these pieces. This week’s New Yorker is one of the year’s best.