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

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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