An inspiring account of the relationship between the struggle to defend pragmatic liberalism and the dilemmas and conflicts...




Dubnov (History/Stanford Univ.) debuts with a biography of Isaiah Berlin (1909–1997), the world-renowned Jewish historian and philosopher.

The author provides insight into both Berlin and the English culture and society to which his family fled to escape anti-Semitic pogroms and revolution. Dubnov claims that the mature Berlin's ideas of freedom and “value pluralism” were rooted in his experiences defining and maintaining a Jewish identity during the 1920s and ’30s, while also assimilating into Oxford academic culture. Berlin's participation in the philosophical disputes of the day took place against the background of the British elite's appeasement of Hitler and Nazism and the Peel Commission's adoption of partition for Palestine. Such conflicts were foreshadowed in encounters with the anti-Semitic Christian “Englishness” of G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, and later with the views of retired imperial officials at All Souls College, Oxford. They were echoed during the time of Berlin's service in the United States during World War II, when it became increasingly obvious that Churchill's government was not going to support the establishment of Israel, and America's Zionists began to follow their own path. This was also the time when Berlin first made the acquaintance of Chaim Weizmann and became a Zionist, and the author compares what he calls Berlin's postwar “diaspora Zionism” with his becoming a political thinker of freedom.

An inspiring account of the relationship between the struggle to defend pragmatic liberalism and the dilemmas and conflicts of politics.

Pub Date: March 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-230-11070-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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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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