Another illuminating facet to the endlessly compelling story of modern India.

CALCUTTA

TWO YEARS IN THE CITY

Anglo-Indian novelist and musician Chaudhuri (Contemporary Literature/Univ. of East Anglia; The Immortals, 2009, etc.) navigates the complicated business of Calcutta’s richly diverse Bengali-English makeup.

Nostalgic and probing, the author’s account of his native Bengali city that was never really his own encapsulates countless humming, modern Indian stories. Once the British Empire’s colonial capital, an elegant Victorian, culturally diverse merchant town, Calcutta fell on bad economic times and into Marxist political turbulence from the 1970s onward, provoking the migration of the middle class and creating an enormous discrepancy of wealth. Chaudhuri, though born in Calcutta in 1962, grew up mostly in Bombay, though the author returned to Calcutta intermittently, spending holidays at his uncle’s house (which inspired much of his fiction, he writes), before his parents moved back to Calcutta in 1989. Eventually, Chaudhuri found his voice as an author in a kind of “renaissance” that the city also experienced at about the same time. He continually attempts to find within the Calcutta makeup “concordances” with other places that he has found transformative and life-affirming—e.g., the movement from “urban dereliction into something compelling.” Educated in England, well-spoken and a member of the privileged bhadralok (genteel Bengali bourgeois) class, the author can move among castes for keen observations, from befriending the ubiquitous squalid street entrepreneurs on Free School Street to taking high tea with the Ingabanga Mukherjee couple on Lower Circular Road. Names fascinate the author, as they indicate the demise of the Bengali language, and he devotes an entire chapter to the recent mystifying elections. Ever a journalist, novelist and literary critic, he is transported by others’ stories and relays in his prose a vivid sense of time and place.

Another illuminating facet to the endlessly compelling story of modern India.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-307-27024-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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 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

Did you like this book?

more