An even-handed survey for anyone bewildered by recent events in a once-remote pocket of Europe.



A useful historical overview of “a centuries-long theater of the macabre.”

Gerolymatos (Hellenic Studies/Simon Fraser Univ.), a specialist on guerrilla warfare and espionage in the Balkans and Greece, examines the problems of religion, nationalism, and romanticized history in the ever-smoldering southeastern corner of Europe. Western policy analysts, he writes, mostly ignored these three potent forces after the collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia, only to be surprised by the virulent civil war and splintering of the peninsula in ethnic-based states that followed. “Post-Cold War Europe and North America,” he remarks, “are at a complete loss to understand why these small countries are hostages to the past and seem so willing to fight the same battles all over again.” Some of those battles loom large in the Balkan mind but have been overlooked or forgotten in Western history; one, which Gerolymatos carefully reconstructs, is the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian archduke Franz Ferdinand at the hands of a Serbian anarchist in 1914, an event that sparked WWI. Ferdinand had it coming, Gerolymatos suggests, if only because he ventured into Sarajevo on the anniversary of the 1389 Battle of Kosovo, when Ottoman Turks slaughtered the flower of Serbian knighthood and opened the peninsula to Muslim domination for the next five centuries. Such resounding defeats and massacres have “shaped at least part of the identity and commonality of each nation, tribe, or group in the Balkans.” One of the most recent was the Serbian loss of Kosovo and Bosnia to UN and NATO forces, making them “de facto satellites of the United States”—and perhaps candidates for annexation into a Greater Albania, the thought of which troubles non-Albanians throughout the region.

An even-handed survey for anyone bewildered by recent events in a once-remote pocket of Europe.

Pub Date: March 14, 2002

ISBN: 0-465-02731-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2001

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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

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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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