THE DOOR IN THE WALL

Roman politician Marcus Caelius Rufus (82-48 B.C.), whose letters are included in the correspondence of Cicero and who once mounted a revolt against Caesar, now tells his own story. In Jaro's The Key (1988), Caelius narrated the life of the poet Catullus. Caelius begins his ``report'' in a twilit funk in a small town in southern Italy that he's occupied with his men, and where he's cut off from news of the civil war between Caesar and Pompey, to whom he is planning to flee; Caesar's troops are marching down the road to the town. (But Pompey is dead in Egypt.) Introduced by moody snatches of landscape, Caelius' narrative touches on his childhood with a stern merchant father (and a pedophilic tutor), schooling with Cicero, and buddying with such as Catullus and Mark Antony. Then there is the early meeting with the cool, ``silvery'' Caesar, which makes a major impact on Caelius: ``He certainly comes from a good family,'' says his father, ``Aeneas of Troy and the Goddess Venus.'' But a wary wise-head says Caesar would ``do anything to get ahead'' and all say he's ``effeminate.'' Eventually, an agog Caelius will become an aide, running little errands for Caesar as he bullies the Senate and undercuts Pompey, the hero general (he made Pompey's magnificence look ``overdone''). Caelius will follow Caesar—who's left no stone in Gaul unturned— and is there with him at the banks of the Rubicon. But the mighty Caesar makes a mighty pass. What to do? It's expedient to murmur ``yes'' to the powerful and ruthless, but Caelius is atremble with rage and, er, something else. Finally Caelius crosses his particular Rubicon, with disillusionment and doom in the cards. There's little resemblance between this Caesar and McCullough's sophisticated political genius (Fortune's Favorites, p. 958); this flustered Senate and McCullough's beady-eyed manipulators; or, for that matter, this Caelius and history's. In the Renault popular manner: an unlikely tale of ancient Rome.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1994

ISBN: 1-877946-39-7

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Permanent Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1993

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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