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

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Mr. Press argues that "acts of conscience have a way of reverberating." Of course, they can do so only if people know about them; that is the service of this humane and absorbing book.
-WSJ online

Synopsis

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 Eyal Press

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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.
 
Published February 14, 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 209 pages
Genres: Health, Fitness & Dieting, Parenting & Relationships, Law & Philosophy, Political & Social Sciences, History. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Beautiful Souls
All: 2 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 0

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Louisa Thomas on Mar 09 2012

In some ways this book is a thoughtful gesture of support. That might sound like a small thing, but it’s not. Compassion never is.

Read Full Review of Beautiful Souls: Saying No, B... | See more reviews from NY Times

WSJ online

Good
Reviewed by Ruth Franklin on Feb 17 2012

Mr. Press argues that "acts of conscience have a way of reverberating." Of course, they can do so only if people know about them; that is the service of this humane and absorbing book.

Read Full Review of Beautiful Souls: Saying No, B... | See more reviews from WSJ online

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