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Short, lyrical essay/poems and allegories similar to those in Zagajewski's Solidarity, Solitude (1990), many of which concern coming to consciousness under totalitarian rule and as an artist in exile. In the ponderous and overbearing title piece, the Polish expatriate (who has lived in Paris since 1981) seems to be constantly stretching too hard for a metaphor, as though he is writing a letter that he wants to be taken as poetry. Many of the shorter entries, on the contrary, seem to stretch quite naturally across the abyss separating poetry from prose. Their themes are common currency for the Western philosopher/poet: the duality of the human spirit, innocence and experience, the conundrum of history, the nature of being, personal and social guilt, and the purpose of art. More unusual, however, is the intensely honest manner in which Zagajewski describes the complicity between the artist and the police state. The protagonist of ``Betrayal,'' for example, admits during an interview that he destroyed the career of a peer who had angered a party member; while attempting to absolve himself for his colleague's subsequent suicide, he learns that his interviewer is that very man's son. ``Instructions for the Secret Police: Introduction'' and ``The Chairman's Secret Speech'' chillingly condemn the communist state through the words of its own organs even as they openly critique the capitalist system that is re-emerging to replace it. Best of all are the entries in ``The New Little Larousse'': brisk, often ironic jabs or mini-parables particularly well suited to frequent rereading and interpretation. In one of these, ``I Killed Hitler,'' a Dutch bookbinder confesses to having assassinated Hitler in 1937, although the very next day the FÅhrer was replaced by an exact duplicate, and the matter was never mentioned in any of the papers. Mature, honest, and as complex as the social, historical, and economic conditions out of which it arose.

Pub Date: March 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-374-28016-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1995

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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