BETWEEN EAST AND WEST

ACROSS THE BORDERLANDS OF EUROPE

A journey through middle Europe, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, of which George Orwell would have been proud, if he had extended his own travels from the Road to Wigan Pier to Minsk. This is not a land flowing with milk and honey. The region and its peoples have been fought over, uprooted, persecuted, and killed for a thousand years. Just in this century, the Borderlands have survived the collapse of three empires, the division of the spoils after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1939, the Second World War, the Holocaust, Stalin's despotism, and the fall of the Soviet Union. As Applebaum, foreign editor for the London Spectator, aptly comments, ``To sift through the layers, one needs to practice a kind of visual and aural archeology.'' She does so with sensitive skill, noting how the cobblestones have disappeared beneath cracked concrete, how medieval foundations have vanished behind ``spectacular monotony,'' and how churches and shops have given way to numbered apartment blocks. She records the rival nationalisms- -Lithuanians hating Poles, Poles hating Lithuanians, everyone hating the Russians. She sees the miles of rusting Soviet naval ships in Kaliningrad, the pit behind the courthouse in Woroniaki in the Ukraine where the KGB dumped the bodies of those they had executed, and records the changes that have taken place as a Ukrainian professor of atheism renames himself professor of religion but delivers the same lectures. She ends her visit in Odessa, with its elegant houses, the only upbeat part of the trip. Otherwise, one is inclined to agree with the Russian who observes sourly that there is no difference between a peasant on the Volga and a man living in the African jungle except that the African has sunlight, fresh air, clean water, and no ice in the winter. The decor may be Soviet drab and mildew, but the book is intelligent, evocative, filled with vivid characterization and an understanding of the history of the area.

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1994

ISBN: 0-679-42150-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1994

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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?

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

  • National Book Award Winner

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

more