A well-researched text falling somewhere between journalism and memoir, sustained by Mesopotamian imagination.

MY FATHER’S PARADISE

A SON’S SEARCH FOR HIS JEWISH PAST IN KURDISH IRAQ

In a filial salute and show of contrition, D.C.-based journalist Sabar recounts his family’s unusual history, reaching back to times before the Bible.

The author’s remarkable father, Yona, was born in remote Zakho, a dusty, isolated village not far from Mosul. The Jews of Kurdish Iraq, believed to be descended from one of the lost tribes of the Babylonian exile, were the last people to speak a form of Aramaic, the language of Jesus and lingua franca of much of the ancient world. In the 1950s, they emigrated en masse to Israel, where Yona and his family, with their strange costumes, customs and language, found themselves at the bottom of the ethnic and economic hierarchy. Unfolding the tale of their assimilation with the novelistic skill of a Levantine storyteller, Sabar traces his father’s journey from poverty to professorship. Yona’s diaspora story began with the end of Iraq Jewry, continued through scholarship in Jerusalem to a teaching post at Yale and reached fulfillment in a distinguished academic career at UCLA and the compilation of an Aramaic dictionary. A generational and cultural gap divided the immigrant father from the cool son who cared little for his heritage. Then, prompted by the birth of his own son, Sabar began to investigate his family’s past. Eventually he and Yona visited a vastly altered Zakho, a town without Jews that now boasts a cybercafé. Describing their pilgrimage and the history that preceded it, the author spins a colorful tale inhabited by wonderful characters in billowing trousers and turbans. The distance between father and son is bridged as Sabar explores the conflicting demands of love and tradition, the burdens and blessings of an ancient culture encountering the 21st century.

A well-researched text falling somewhere between journalism and memoir, sustained by Mesopotamian imagination.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-56512-490-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2008

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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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