Fear and loathing in Moscow, recorded with clear-eyed compassion.

A RUSSIAN DIARY

A JOURNALIST’S FINAL ACCOUNT OF LIFE, CORRUPTION, AND DEATH IN PUTIN’S RUSSIA

Russian journalist Politkovskaya (1958–2006) questions Mother Russia from beyond the grave; the author was murdered soon after completing the book.

Politkovskaya was many things to post-Communist Russia, among them a journalist, an activist and what some called the “lost moral conscience” of the divided nation. Her final book is a tribute to her life’s work, which included shaming a government determined to vanquish political opposition and recording the voices of common people devastated by the Chechen conflict. The diary begins in earnest, detailing the parliamentary elections of 2003, which are paralleled with the increasing terrorism, both revolutionary and institutionalized, in Moscow. Politkovskaya reports with obvious heartache on suicide bombings, governmental corruption and the increasing “disappearance” of protesters and other undesirables. The target of much of her wrath is Russian President Vladimir Putin and what she deems his ruthless methods of controlling the nation. Later, the author travels to the Chechen Republic to interview unsteady veterans from both sides of the war. She also talks her way into the armed fortress of a complex Chechen warlord, sobbing with despair after her dialogue with the 27-year-old killer. Perhaps no other event affects Russia or the author as much as the Beslan school siege of 2004, where more than 300 hostages—most of them children—died in a pitched gun battle between rebels and Russian Special Forces. Politkovskaya interviews the mothers of children killed at Beslan, all the while punctuating her political reporting with the terrifying details of kidnappings, hunger strikes and other terrible acts of violence and self-destruction. As she mounted an increasing challenge to authorities, Politkovskaya’s work led to her poisoning, incarceration and finally murder by a contract killer in October 2006. “I see everything and that is the whole problem,” she writes in the book’s coda. “I see both what is good and what is bad.” Her diary may lack total journalistic objectivity, but Politkovskaya more than justifies her bias with this emotional portrait of the dangerous lives of the Russian people.

Fear and loathing in Moscow, recorded with clear-eyed compassion.

Pub Date: May 29, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6682-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2007

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

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

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

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