A touching tribute to a former national hero—the author's father—and a homeland riven by contradictions.

WE HEARD THE HEAVENS THEN

A MEMOIR OF IRAN

Mournfully lyrical account of an evanescent privileged childhood on the eve of the Iranian Revolution.

The son of an eminent general in the Imperial Iranian Air Force, Minu-Sepehr enjoyed a charmed childhood at the Iranian base of Isfahan and then briefly in Tehran, where the family moved after the fall of the shah in 1979. In this beautifully composed memoir of a vanished time, the author, now a teacher in Oregon and the founder of the Forum for Middle East Awareness, reconstructs the increasingly fraught last days before his family was forced to flee their homeland, finding refuge in London and then America. While his indefatigable, proud father, “Baba,” kept an eye on the Soviets, Minu-Sepehr enjoyed tormenting the servants, learning to drive, navigating both the old-world ways and the modern ones of his grandmothers and mother, learning about Western culture from the Americans living on the base and hanging out in the kitchen with his beloved nanny, Bubbi, who included the boy in the lives of the lower classes he normally would never know. “They were taught to be invisible,” he writes of these fascinating low-ranking laborers, “to blow in and out with a tea tray…I loved every second of their utterances.” When the author was in fifth grade, the ugly political events began to intrude on his life. Baba’s colleagues and friends were killed, their pictures splashed across the newspapers; rumors of corruption and heresy abounded; the TV broadcasted the torching of Cinema Rex and the corruption trials. While the author’s older brother was sent off to boarding school in America, the family moved to their grandmother’s house in Tehran, where Minu-Sepehr attended a tougher Iranian school and learned, for the first time, a “political hierarchy.” Soon after, the family was able to get out, but always expecting to return—never to happen.

A touching tribute to a former national hero—the author's father—and a homeland riven by contradictions.

Pub Date: April 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-5218-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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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

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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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