A bit textbook-ish, but unquestionably comprehensive and accessible enough for dedicated general readers.

IRAN

A MODERN HISTORY

A stately, scholarly study of Iran’s modern development, emphasizing themes of Iranian distinctness from Arab and Western cultures and traditions.

Given that the country was overrun constantly and threatened by powerful neighboring forces, from the Arabs to the Russians to the British, how did the Persian Empire resist being subsumed by them, retaining instead its remarkable language, culture, and Shia religion? In his elucidating study that moves from the establishment of the Safavid dynasty in 1501 through 2009, Amanat (History and International Studies/Yale Univ.) considers many different factors in the making of Iranian cohesion. Geography played an important part, as the country is protected by mountain ranges and at the crossroads of major trading routes yet is also vulnerable as a northern passageway for nomadic invasions. Known by the ancient Greeks as the “formidable Other” superpower, the Persian Empire enjoyed a rich linguistic and cultural tradition and developed a strong idea of political authority in the form of the shah (“one who deserves to rule on his own merit”). Moreover, the divide between the center of power and the periphery was great, and as Shi’ism was consolidated under the Safavid state in the 16th century, the tension gave rise to important indigenous messianic movements. The Qajar era (1797-1852) was marked by the struggle to resist colonial domination while gingerly adopting Western modern technologies. Amanat closely studies the liberal, anti-tyranny legacy of the Constitutional Revolution of 1905-1911 as both a driver of modernizing forces of the later Pahlavi reign (1925-1941) and a significant spur to the sense of democracy and national identity that would resonate with the Iranian Revolution. While the Shia religion (and its semiautonomous clergy) served as the bonding agent, the Ayatollah Khomeini was able to put “into practice the long-speculated-on idea of political Islam.” The author emphasizes the role of Iranian art—poetry, architecture, painting, music, cinema—in helping to encapsulate that national identity but also harbor expressions of political dissent against repressive authorities.

A bit textbook-ish, but unquestionably comprehensive and accessible enough for dedicated general readers.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-300-11254-2

Page Count: 992

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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