HOPE DIES LAST

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF ALEXANDER DUBCEK

A disappointingly passionless memoir from one of the 20th century's greater spirits. Best remembered for the high-profile reformist role he played during the so-called Prague Spring of 1968, Dubcek died last year (at age 72) following a road accident in Bohemia. Before his passing, he'd completed a rough draft of his autobiography but—despite the efforts of editor/collaborator Hochman (a Czech-born journalist who contributes an illuminating afterword)—the published text can most charitably be described as deadly earnest and tediously detailed. The son of Slovak-American parents who returned to their homeland prior to WW II's outbreak, Dubcek joined a guerrilla unit and was wounded in battle against the Germans before they were routed by Soviet forces. Always politically active at the grass- roots level, the young idealist worked his way up through the ranks of the Communist Party, which, in 1948, seized power in Czechoslovakia before scheduled elections could be held. Two decades on, Dubeck was in the vanguard of a liberalization movement whose democratic platform captured the wider world's imagination- -and outraged Kremlin hard-liners. Warsaw Pact troops invaded the insurgent satellite in August 1968, dashing any immediate hopes of ``socialism with a human face'' and bundling Dubcek (who had replaced a Stalinist as CP boss) off to Moscow for public reflection. Consigned to work as a forester, he survived to abet the Velvet Revolution that rid his countrymen of the Soviet yoke in 1989. The decency and caution that were hallmarks of Dubcek's public career as an apostle of progressive change prove drawbacks in his personal testament. Weighed down by judicious assessments of dramatic events and overlong asides on yesteryear's political arcana, the pedestrian narrative never brings its author or his dreams to life. (Sixty photos)

Pub Date: May 1, 1993

ISBN: 1-56836-000-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Kodansha

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1993

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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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