A levelheaded, engaging reading of the Gospels and historical account that forms a solid sense of this pivotal personage and...

PONTIUS PILATE

DECIPHERING A MEMORY

A literary study of the Roman governor of Judaea who condemned the prophet Jesus—reluctantly—to death.

Roman scholar Schiavone (Spartacus, 2013, etc.) reveals a deeply human story in the encounter (both historical and biblical) between a charismatic teacher denounced by the Jewish priests for fomenting “false” and dangerous preaching and the rather tone-deaf but benign Roman governor who did not care to make trouble with his Jewish constituency. In this slender, elegantly translated work geared toward lay readers, Schiavone navigates between memory—by the four writers of the Gospels, especially John, “the closest to the context of first century Palestine”—and history—Josephus and Philo of Alexandria, “two first-century intellectuals”—to help in the reconstruction of these contested events. The narrative culminates in the climax of Jesus’ preaching and testimony in Jerusalem and the trauma—the Crucifixion—that forms the Christian final sequence. Schiavone treads carefully through the narrative by the Gospel writers to get a sense of Pilate’s character and role as a governor who held his job for 10 years, which was rare—he was obviously valued by the emperor. Having arrived at the governor’s palace in Jerusalem in the early hours of the morning after being identified by one of his disciples, Judas, to the Roman authorities, Jesus was taken for interrogation by Pilate, who feared a trap by the Jewish authorities, the Sanhedrin, on this eve of the Passover. The governor could allow a criminal pardon, and he offered the assembled crowd either Barabbas, a notorious criminal, or Jesus, and the crowd still demanded the death of Jesus. Why? What had he done, Pilate wanted to know? He was declared a “sacrilegious blasphemer,” and, as the so-called King of the Jews, he was too dangerous for the community to let him live.

A levelheaded, engaging reading of the Gospels and historical account that forms a solid sense of this pivotal personage and his role on the epic stage.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63149-235-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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