A decidedly minor contribution to history, but an entertaining read all the same.

IMPERIAL LEGEND

THE MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF TSAR ALEXANDER I

Move over, Anastasia: there’s a new alive-after-death Romanov in town, and therein hangs a lively tale.

Troubetzkoy, himself descended from Russian royals, turns up a mystery nearly two centuries old: the putative death at age 48 of Tsar Alexander I, celebrated for having marched his army in the streets of Paris after having helped defeat Napoleon. Everything about the death is suspicious, at least in Troubetzkoy’s eyes. Alexander died in a remote Siberian outpost far from competent doctors and medical examiners. Renowned for his strength, vigor, and various appetites, he had been in apparently splendid health and spirits on leaving the capital not long before. Moreover, the body that was represented as his bore signs of the lash, something no tsar could have been subjected to. Not long after Alexander’s death, a preacher turned up in Siberia who comported himself with military bearing and seemed to resemble the tsar in many ways; this Feodor Kuzmich, though a mendicant starets (holy man), once supposedly received a shipment of two hundred pairs of white silk stockings from Paris—and Alexander was known to have suffered from recurring athlete’s foot. On such evidence, none other than Leo Tolstoy was convinced that Alexander was Kuzmich, and Troubetzkoy capably defends the same view. Why the subterfuge, the faked death to escape from the burdens of the crown? Well, Troubetzkoy suggests, Alexander could have been suffering from a guilty conscience for participating, knowingly or not, in the murder of his father, Tsar Paul, who had been courting Napoleon and who, in the words of Alexander’s brother Constantine, had “declared war on common sense.” From regicide/parricide to supreme ruler and holy man: an odd career path, perhaps, but one that nicely sustains Troubetzkoy’s tale.

A decidedly minor contribution to history, but an entertaining read all the same.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-55970-608-2

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2002

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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