Overall, morbid and engaging.

THE ZANZIBAR CHEST

A STORY OF LIFE, LOVE, AND DEATH IN FOREIGN LANDS

Raised by British parents in East Africa, former Reuters correspondent Hartley chronicles a decade of encounters with the world’s bloodiest conflicts and considers the twisted legacy of colonialism through the microcosm of his own family.

Not for the squeamish, these accounts of Ethiopia, Somalia, Bosnia, Rwanda, and other conflicts seethe with shocking and grisly consequences often wrought, in the author’s view, by the “one-size-fits-all solutions” imposed by well-intentioned but clueless Western power structures. United Nations peacekeepers are portrayed as effete by design (undermanned, underequipped, etc.), spooked in fog-of-war conditions, and when left to their own devices occasionally capable of barbarities that mimic the African adversaries they are supposed to buffer. American efforts in Somalia are viewed as typically cynical, exploiting technological superiority to gain PR or political benefit, but almost always arriving too late and leaving too soon, with neither concern for nor full comprehension of the inevitable aftermath. Food drops left unguarded in starving villages, for example, are simply commandeered by the local warlords who rule by terror. Hartley’s m.o. is to recount the impact of these revelations on his own psyche, along with his rationalizations, yearnings, and compensations practiced in the company of likeminded “hacks”: foreign correspondents who regularly drink, drug, and fornicate to excess in the name of requisite therapy. They are mostly runaways, he postulates, “from emotional distress at home, divorce, bereavement, career burnout, boredom, or simply themselves.” As most of his close companions become casualties, an intermittently persistent love affair with a young American photographer provides the obligatory passionate interludes that punctuate the horror. His native’s perspective on African affairs enhances the narrative, although a habitual barrage of corroborating details—no projectile breaks a window without notation of its probable caliber—sometimes doesn’t.

Overall, morbid and engaging.

Pub Date: July 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-87113-871-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2003

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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

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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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