THE BIRTH OF FREEDOM

SHAPING LIVES AND SOCIETIES IN THE NEW EASTERN EUROPE

A solid report on how three Eastern European nations are faring in the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse. Drawing mainly on his experiences as a Warsaw-based correspondent for Newsweek, Nagorski (Reluctant Farewell, 1985) offers an anecdotal appreciation of the changes convulsing Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland as they make the painful transition from backward Communist satellites to modern industrial democracies. In addition to assessing how well erstwhile dissidents (Havel, Walesa, et al.) are performing as heads of state, the author profiles the younger generation of officeholders and opposition candidates whose activities keep the political pot boiling in each country. Covered as well are the previously suppressed playwrights, filmmakers, and writers whose audiences have disappeared in the face of competition from Western entertainment media. According to Nagorski, moreover, the region's popular press has yet to come to terms with its role as a putatively objective observer. But while cultural and governance problems may persist, they pale in comparison with the wrenching challenges of converting centrally planned command economies to free enterprise. Without advanced technology, commercial banking facilities, an educational establishment, securities legislation, and allied elements of infrastructure taken for granted in capitalistic societies, the make-over has been halting and marked by blunders or racketeering. There's also a sizable due bill for the havoc wreaked by state-owned corporations that squandered natural resources and expanded without heed to environmental consequences. Nor, Nagorski shows, is labor entirely comfortable with market judgments and demands—e.g., showing up on time and putting in a productive day's work. But although Czechs and Slovaks, as well as Hungarians and Poles, seem to be blinking in the bright light of liberty, Nagorski leaves little doubt that they're creating credos, identities, and institutions that will ensure them brighter tomorrows. Savvy perspectives on Mitteleuropa's keystone states at critical historical junctures.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 1993

ISBN: 0-671-78225-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1993

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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