A Troubled and Troubling Life

Who is Bernhard Goetz, and why did he do what he did?

With his hunched, narrow shoulders, his chin tucked resolutely into his chest, and his slinky, slouched walk, Bernhard Hugo Goetz looks rather like a human question mark. The inner man bears the same punctuation: Victim or victimizer? Hero or malefactor? Loner or leader? He is gentle, but demonstrably violent. Personable, but introverted. Idealistic, but cynical. He desires privacy, but has courted publicity. He is humble, but strangely messianic. He lives in New York City, but claims to loathe it. He is not indicted for attempted murder; he is indicted for attempted murder. In his public statements and interviews he has often...