An inspiring account of the writing life and a chilling glimpse of authoritarianism’s slippery slope.

I WILL NEVER SEE THE WORLD AGAIN

THE MEMOIR OF AN IMPRISONED WRITER

Stark, compact essays about a writer’s imprisonment in an increasingly authoritarian Turkey.

In early 2018, Altan (Like a Sword Wound, 2018, etc.), an acclaimed novelist and essayist, was sentenced to life in prison for treason based on televised comments regarding a failed 2016 coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. As Philippe Sands recalls in his foreword, “[Altan] spoke with passion and courage, intelligence and humor on the writer’s place in a decent society.” This recollection aptly reflects this slim compendium of essays, produced by Altan while imprisoned. He sketches the arc of his descent into a demeaning carceral nightmare, beginning with charges of broadcasting “subliminal messages” in support of the coup. Later, this was changed to “putschism,” for which he was convicted; one judge cynically told him, “our prosecutors like using words the meanings of which they don’t know.” Altan was jailed alongside many intellectuals and military officers, and the first essays reflect their initial responses to incarceration. “In a matter of hours,” he writes, “I had travelled across five centuries to arrive at the dungeons of the Inquisition.” The author acknowledges the harrowing nature of his ordeal, and he positions himself in the tradition of imprisoned writers who respond to their plight by acknowledging its surreal qualities. “I had seen the monstrous face of reality,” he writes. “From now on I would live like a man clinging to a single branch.” While horrified by his eventual life sentence, he became determined to use the writer’s tools and identity to fight both inner despair and his government’s persecution: “I must confess that even from within a dark cell, the idea of fighting filled me with such exuberance that I was saying ‘To the end,’ with excitement.” This spirit infuses the book and lends rhythmic urgency to Altan’s voice as he reflects on the intensity of life in a cell, the plights of fellow prisoners, and how to recall loved ones without succumbing to despair.

An inspiring account of the writing life and a chilling glimpse of authoritarianism’s slippery slope.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59051-992-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more