In this slim yet fascinating foray into the nature of self-identity, Nobel Prize winner Garcia Marquez adopts the voice and tells the real-life tale of a banished film director who returned incognito to his native Chile to film life under the repressive Pinochet regime. Exiled from Chile in 1974 for his allegiance to the Marxist ideals of murdered Chilean President Allende, Littin, director of the esteemed El Chacal de Nahualtoro, sneaked into Chile in early 1985 disguised as a Uruguayan businessman. There, directing three legitimate European film crews as well as six crews from the Chilean resistance, he penetrated as far as Pinochet's private office. "To pin a great long donkey's tail on Pinochet" was, in large part, Littin's aim in this dangerous venture, but Garcia Marquez's rendering of the story, an elegant editing of 18 hours of talk between writer and filmmaker, focuses more on the disorientation of adopting a new identity, and on Littin's narrow escapes from detection, than on the political or moral aspects of the director's feat. Littin's transformation is radical: not only body changes such as tweezed eyebrows and scalp, weight loss, and glasses, but a major shift in behavior as well: "I had to learn to laugh differently, to walk slowly, and to use my hands for emphasis when I spoke." But as he travels through Chile meeting old family and pals who fail to recognize him—including his own mother!—he suffers increasingly under his role, at times endangering his mission through lapses or willful revolt. So with the police catching on, only hours behind him, it's with great relief that a confused Littin at last boards a plane to Mexico, leaving behind the weight of another's self. Minor Garcia Marquez, but still superbly crafted and worth exploring.

Pub Date: June 1, 1987

ISBN: 1590173406

Page Count: 116

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1987

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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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