For those seeking a window onto the Islamic world, though of tertiary importance at best.

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THE MALADY OF ISLAM

“If fanaticism was the sickness in Catholicism, if Nazism was the sickness in Germany, then surely fundamentalism is the sickness in Islam.”

So writes homme de lettres Meddeb (Comparative Literature/Univ. of Paris X—Nanterre) by way of an opening salvo in a polemic sure to irk the ayatollahs. Fundamentalism, he argues, has taken hold of the Islamic world since 1979—the year of Khomeini’s triumphant revolution in Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, events more than coincidentally linked—for any number of reasons, not least of them the decline of secular education and the proliferation of “semi-literate” followers of “candidates who claim the authority to touch the letter.” Other factors, by Meddeb’s account, are the general withering away of the Islamic world as an important place vis-à-vis the rest of the globe, a marginalization that began at least as far back as the 15th century and the transference of what he calls the “world-capital” “ever further away from the Islamic space”; the repudiation of Enlightenment-influenced attitudes on such matters as the liberation of women and universal suffrage; the failure of the Islamic world to develop any kind of meaningful, modern democratic tradition, and the failure of revolutionary leaders such as Atatürk of Turkey and Bourguiba of Tunisia “to rid themselves of the despotic tradition they had inherited”; and the rise of a strange kind of American imperialism that has done too little to remove the conditions conducive to creating “the man eaten away by resentment, a candidate for terrorist and insurrectional fundamentalism.” Meddeb’s analysis is provocative if touched by flights of rhetorical confoundedness of the sort beloved only by French philosophers. The payoff: Meddeb’s crystal-clear assurance that “al Qa’ida is destined to fail just as the Assassins failed . . . just as every similar movement throughout history has failed.”

For those seeking a window onto the Islamic world, though of tertiary importance at best.

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 2003

ISBN: 0-465-04435-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2003

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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