Fernández’s passions, the immediacy of his reportage from the battered Communist redoubt, and his understanding of the Cuban...

ADRIFT

THE CUBAN BOAT PEOPLE

A compressed epic of the suffering, heroism, and determination that evinced itself in the Cuban refugee crisis of the 1990s—which in this translation carries heavy moral weight with intensely wrought, sometimes pedantic prose.

Following the 1989 collapse of the Soviet bloc, living conditions in Cuba deteriorated rapidly, and a series of political crises (generally involving US-Cuban brinkmanship) culminated in the frantic attempts by Cuban rafters to reach Miami between 1993 and 1996 (and since then). Fernández offers a terse but detailed narrative from within Cuba, capturing the desperate ingenuity of the Cuban people (both to build rafts, and merely to survive the post–’89 socialist privations), as well as the hoary treachery of the Castro regime (which constantly manipulated the rafters’ fates for political gain, first viciously attacking the refugees, then promising no interference to those who leave promptly). Although there were moments of both absurdity and triumph for the rafters, Fernández dwells on the horror: addressing the little-acknowledged fact that perhaps four times as many rafters died at sea as found land or rescuers, he narrates a long string of anecdotal suffering—typhoons, shark attacks, starvation, family members watching each other drown, and merciless “example-setting” killings by Cuban armed forces. Thankfully, Fernández also pulls back for the crucial global view, examining Castro’s long run, Cuba’s contentious relationship with other Latin American nations, and its perpetually worsening relations with the Clinton administration—culminating in the 1996 Cuban Air Force attack on the airborne exile group Brothers to the Rescue, and the punitive Helms-Burton Act that followed. The author’s portraits of these players and politicians, juxtaposed with details of the perpetually struggling Cubans, are laced with mordant irony.

Fernández’s passions, the immediacy of his reportage from the battered Communist redoubt, and his understanding of the Cuban people’s willingness to risk all for better lives make this a substantial contribution to a thorny international debate.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2000

ISBN: 1-55885-300-6

Page Count: 215

Publisher: Arte Público

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2000

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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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