A bit dense at times, but ultimately revelatory.



Occasional pieces on his native land by Nobelist Sen (Rationality and Freedom, 1999, etc.).

Even the rather commonplace observation that India is incredibly diverse seems fresh when elucidated by the author in an essay devoted to the country’s many calendars: the Buddha Nirvana, the Saka, the Kollam, etc. How do all these different groups, with their different calendars, coexist? Over the centuries, states Sen, India has developed a robust “argumentative tradition,” a practice of rational discourse. This tradition, he declares, is valuable in a society pursuing democracy, yet it has been neglected in recent years. Religionists in India have their own reasons for promoting a particular piece of its eclectic history, and Westerners too often reduce the subcontinent to a place they can visit when they need a shot of mysticism. Sen denounces—and indeed disproves—the bigoted view that reason is essentially Western or European. India, he makes plain, has a long tradition of civil debate, of secular thought and of contributions to math and science. The opening essays are broadly historical, but Sen moves on to issues of greater relevance and urgency. In “India and the Bomb,” he untangles two distinct issues: the world’s stance on weapons, which “needs a change and in particular requires an effective and rapid disarmament”; and India and Pakistan’s “nuclear adventures,” which he believes cannot be rationalized by pointing out that many other countries have nuclear weapons. Sen urges India to practice “nuclear abstinence” and to press for disarmament around the globe. In another piece, he limns class division in contemporary India and suggests that some of the recent policies designed to ameliorate this rift have actually calcified it. In an essay on gender, Sen urges India to appreciate how much women can do to uplift a society. Collections of previously published essays often prove uneven; this one is remarkably uniform in theme and quality.

A bit dense at times, but ultimately revelatory.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2005

ISBN: 0-374-10583-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.


Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

Did you like this book?