A convincing thesis from a wise and civilized voice.

IN THE NAME OF IDENTITY

VIOLENCE AND THE NEED TO BELONG

The latest attempt to explain the propensity of civilized nations to repeatedly engage in the massacre of their neighbors, a practice alternately known as genocide, race riots, ethnic cleansing, and, simply, mass murder.

Distinguished Lebanese novelist Maalouf (Ports of Call, 1999, etc.), long-time resident of France, focuses on the universal human need for a sense of identity. When it’s threatened or simply denigrated, individuals seethe with resentment. Yet this murderous need to belong is absurdly changeable, dependant on history, politics, geography, or economics. Thus, being black provides no sense of identity throughout much of Africa. In Nigeria, one is Ibo or Hausa, in Rwanda, Hutu or Tutsi, a difference that can be a matter of life and death. To those who move to the US this becomes unimportant: every black is black above all. The author looks not unkindly on America’s preoccupation with political correctness. No movie can cast a black as a criminal without other blacks in admirable roles, such as police chief. Maalouf regards this as a reasonable effort of a multicultural society to avoid marginalizing any group. Worldwide, the greatest threat to individual identity is globalization, promoted by developed countries (and threatening to the undeveloped), and led by the US (provoking resentment by everyone). Globalism is really a synonym for modernization: technology, relaxed morals, a breakdown in tradition. The author stresses that all this is an entirely western phenomenon, which means it’s a Christian phenomenon. With this in mind, the explosion of Islamic fundamentalism becomes less a mystifying religious ideology than an effort to preserve self-respect in the face of a menacing foreign ideology. As an Arab, a Christian, and an exile, Maalouf draws on long experience with the stress of holding onto an identity not shared by most of his neighbors.

A convincing thesis from a wise and civilized voice.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-55970-593-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS

AND OTHER ESSAYS

This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more