An important dispatch from a journalist in the trenches.




Financial Times world news editor Russell (Big Men, Little People: The Leaders Who Defined Africa, 2000, etc.) offers a cogent study of the political perils ensnaring South Africa since the fall of apartheid.

The author admits that he, like many other interested observers, was “seduced by the outward signs of change” when the serene reign of moral leader Nelson Mandela was followed by technocrat Thabo Mbeki in 1999. At this time, a black middle class seemed to be emerging. However, by 2008 Mbeki had lost touch with the people and was ousted by his party, the African National Congress (ANC), paving the way for the populist insurgency of the largely uneducated, scandal-ridden “Big Man” Jacob Zuma. (The book’s title is taken from Zuma’s “signature anthem.”) Having observed the charismatic Zuma in action, Russell compares him to “a revivalist preacher or the leader of a cult.” The author tracks the numerous political pitfalls since Mandela’s “sainthood,” covering much of the same territory as South African journalist Mark Gevisser’s upcoming biography of Thabo Mbeki, A Legacy of Liberation. Russell also considers some of the most pressing issues that the post-liberation country faces: the incendiary problem of race relations still plaguing whites and blacks, exacerbated by the huge disparity in wealth; internal rifts within the ANC, which had to adapt from a liberation movement to a modern political party; the culture of violence and failure of law enforcement; the urgent need for land-ownership reform; and the necessity of redressing Mbeki’s disastrous denial of the AIDS epidemic. Casting their shadow over South Africa are numerous other sub-Saharan liberation movements that have morphed into authoritarianism, corruption and ethnic strife, such as in Angola and Zimbabwe. Russell offers a sobering look at how South Africa must “buck [this] depressing trend.”

An important dispatch from a journalist in the trenches.

Pub Date: April 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-58648-738-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2009

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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