by MacKinlay Kantor ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 27, 1955
Man's inhumanity to Man -- and the redeeming flashes of mercy -- this is the theme at the heart of this grim record in fictional form of one of the blots on the nation's history. Andersonville, the prisoner stockade in Georgia, twenty acres hewn out of a pine woods, counted for more dead in fourteen months of the Civil War than Bull Run, Antietam and Gettysburg combined. It took a close-up view of Buchenwald when it was opened to war correspondents to bring home the horrors he had read about in Andersonville; MacKinlay Kantor knew he must put into book form the research he'd been doing for 25 years. For Andersonville was a project pre-dating his Long Remember the now-classic novel of Gettysburg. This is a searing book -- a reading experience no one will forget. It is carved out of primary sources:- reports filed only to be buried and the infamy condoned, the sadist who boasted of his achievement confirmed in his horrifying perfomance; letters, diaries smuggled out, stories written afterwards, contemporary eye witness accounts, notes left and saved by descendants of prisoners and Jailers; interviews with those descendants; historical accounts year after year. The end result reads like a personal experience. The reader agonizes through every phase of it:- the shock of awareness and horror, the stench, the grim struggle for mere survival, the gnawing hunger -- and rejection of the lowest depths accepted by men degraded by starvation and disease. But the factors that make this much more than an appallingly realistic panorama are the men themselves, -- the prison's officials, callous, cruel, indifferent- or weak; the old men and young boys used as guards; the scarce example of men who served in order to do what little they could accomplish in the primitive, crude hospital; and the prisoners -- cross sectioning all sorts and conditions of men, in circumstances that reduced them almost to beasts. There were some 36,000 in all -- and 14,000 died. There were criminals and saints and everything in between. And most of the stories, with their flashbacks to boyhood, to families back home, are drawn from fact, and serve to paint a portrait of America a century ago. The war is a backdrop to it all. The civilians on whose doorstep this horror came into being made their feeble efforts to help- and occasionally risked being labelled as traitors to aid in minor ways. This part is fictitious- but as one reads one realizes that so it must have been. It is a superb achievement -- long, harrowing, but essential reading not only for students of the Civil War, but for students of mankind. (There will be a limited edition, signed, boxed- 500 for sale-$12.50) News has just come through that this will be November choice of the B O M.
Pub Date: Oct. 27, 1955
Page Count: -
Publisher: World Publ.
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1955
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