Uneven but engaging.

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THE SILENCE AND THE SCORPION

THE COUP AGAINST CHAVEZ AND THE MAKING OF MODERN VENEZUELA

A fast-paced but disjointed debut about the 2002 coup against Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez.

On April 11, 2002, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans marched through the streets of Caracas in an attempt to coerce Chávez into resigning. Before they reached the presidential palace, gunmen opened fire on the demonstrators, setting off a chain of events that would lead to the downfall of Chávez, the abrupt fraying of the opposition and Chávez’s improbable resumption of the presidency only 72 hours later. Leaning heavily on interviews with participating social and political actors from both sides of the ideological spectrum, Nelson (Center for American and World Cultures/Miami Univ.) attempts to re-create the emotions and experiences of the three-day coup “through the eyes of the everyday Venezuelans who were there.” The author’s breakneck pace initially proves problematic. The introduction provides insufficient grounding not only in the origins and evolution of Chávez’s Bolivarian Revolution but also in the sociopolitical conditions that instigated the coup. Moreover, the clipped chapters in the opening section ricochet rapidly among a wide cast of characters without taking time to develop their stories. It is only after Chávez relinquished power that Nelson’s narrative finds its bearing. In particular, the author paints a vivid portrait of Chávez in exile. Whisked away to a naval base on the northern coast, Chávez ran through a gamut of conflicting emotions, defiantly refusing to resign but also breaking down into tears at one point. Meanwhile, the opposition, spearheaded by the business and labor sectors, was quickly unraveling. When Pedro Carmona, a wealthy businessman and the interim president, decided to dissolve the legislative and judicial branches and revoke the Constitution, many Venezuelans feared that the country’s elites would enact revenge on Chávez loyalists. The military and labor unions abandoned the transitional government, and shortly thereafter, a stunned Chávez was flown back to the city. In a final twist, Nelson demonstrates that the coup actually rejuvenated Chávez’s presidency, allowing him to portray the opposition as untrustworthy conspirators.

Uneven but engaging.

Pub Date: May 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-56858-418-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Nation Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2009

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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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