Sobering—even scary—and necessary reading for historians of the modern era.




A Strangelovian paradox: The only way to preserve peace is to court war.

So believed Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev, who combined political cunning and a remarkable survival instinct with a sad awareness that “the Soviet position in the superpower struggle was so weak that Moscow had no choice but to try to set the pace of international politics.” Confronted with five major crises—Egypt’s seizure of the Suez Canal and subsequent intervention by France and England, a coup in Iraq, the Cuban missile showdown and workers’ uprisings in Hungary, East Germany and Poland—that threatened to turn the Cold War hot in an instant, Khrushchev refused to cede ground until he was certain the Soviet position had been clearly understood. The West paid attention—perhaps too much attention. Thus, write historians Fursenko and Naftali (who previously collaborated on a book about the Cuban Missile crisis, One Hell of a Gamble, 1997), Khrushchev was able to mislead the opposition; for instance, he realized early on that Washington overestimated the Soviet’s nuclear capability, especially its nuclear attack force, which was minimal, since the USSR lacked aircraft carriers, midair refueling capabilities and even the necessary long-range rocketry. Thanks to Khrushchev’s skills, the U.S. and its allies spent untold amounts of money on things military, which the Soviet leader hoped would bankrupt them. But, as it happens, Khrushchev had to fight many battles back home; though his spirited shoe-banging helped prevent the outbreak of nuclear conflict, his critics at home “blamed Khrushchev for taking Moscow unnecessarily to the brink of war in 1956,” and even closer to that brink in Cuba in 1962. Working with recently released Soviet documents, the authors offer a nuanced picture of the Soviet leader and of a time marked by fear and plenty of pettiness (as when Khrushchev, touring the U.S., was refused admission to Disneyland).

Sobering—even scary—and necessary reading for historians of the modern era.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-393-05809-3

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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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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