Eberhard Busch, Meine Zeit mit Karl Barth: Tagebuch 1965-1968 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht), 2013.

Eberhard Busch’s day by day account of his time with Karl Barth is one of the most pleasant and engaging biographically oriented volumes I’ve read in a very long time. In fact, I seldom read biographies. But when I do, they’re generally excellent. This one, moreso. To be sure it isn’t actually a biography in the traditional sense of the word as it isn’t a narration of Karl Barth’s life. Rather, it’s a diary: a diary that explores in sublime detail the experiences which Barth and Busch had together during the last years of Barth’s life. How, then, does one review a diary? Does one mention the various photos which are included? Photos of Barth with Charlotte v. Kirschbaum and her son and grandson (p. 243)? Of Barth with his wife and daughter (p. 293)? Or does one excerpt portions of Busch’s very thorough very carefully worded accounts of a day’s activity? Busch’s diary can and does include entries of just a paragraph (as for Monday, 14. 8. 1967) wherein he relates that Barth telefonierte, ich möchte anderntags rechtzeitig kommen, da er wichtige Briefe zu diskutieren habe: “curiosae, ja curiosissimae!” Weiteres verrate er noch nicht. Seine eigene gesundheitliche und stimmungsmäßige Situation beschrieb er bündg mit dem Worten: “Auf dem Dache sitzt ein Greis, / der sich nicht zu helfen weiß” (p. 405).

But he also includes entries which detail such things as graduate seminars, such as one held on Saturday, 27. 5. 1967 – which, as it happens, was centered on a discussion of Calvin and which Busch’s notes – in smaller type font – extend from page 309 though page 313. Busch’s volume also shows Barth’s wide-ranging interests. So, for instance, on Saturday, 5. 11. 1966 he participated in a dogmatic colloquium whose substance concerned the Second Vatican Council. Here too Busch’s notes of the discussion are thorough and utterly amazing (pp. 112117). There is so much more- so many insights into Barth’s thought in the closing years of his life. This important and substantial book is, I am unafraid to say, sine qua non for anyone anywhere doing research into the life, thought, and theology of the great Swiss theologian (who was second only in importance to Emil Brunner in his day, and fifth in line after Zwingli, Calvin, and Luther). You must read it.

Jim West Quartz Hill School of Theology

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