A fine history that is surely controversial in its view of how victims become victimizers and how professions of love turn...

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THE DARKENING AGE

THE CHRISTIAN DESTRUCTION OF THE CLASSICAL WORLD

“The destroyers came from out of the desert”: a vigorous account of a vengeful early Christianity that burned temples and books—and dissenters.

Think today’s fundamentalist Christianity is anti-science, anti-woman, and anti-diversity? Things were even more fraught in its early centuries, writes Times (U.K.) arts reporter and classicist Nixey. In the case of the great ancient Near Eastern city of Palmyra, ascetic religions targeted the temple of Athena for destruction forthwith, setting into motion what the author calls, with qualification, the “triumph of Christianity”—with qualification because in a zero-sum game, there can be no triumph without someone vanquished, and the vanquished included the philosophers, artists, and writers of the ancient world as well as people of ordinary belief, so the “triumph” came at considerable cost. Nixey suggests that Western philosophy as such ended in 529, when the last “pagan” thinkers were driven from Athens and St. Benedict destroyed the temple to Apollo at Monte Cassino. Many other events figure in these pages: the burning of the much-torched Library of Alexandria and the gruesome murder of the philosopher Hypatia, the torching of ivory statues in Rome, the suppression of divergent Christianities such as Arianism, and the beginnings of the systematic oppression of Jews, who, according to the zealots at the head of the new Christian movement, “were not a people with an ancient wisdom to be learned from: they were instead, like the pagans, the hated enemies of the Church.” Nixey paints with a wide brush, but her point is well-taken that even if it took hundreds of years for Christianity to sweep aside competing forms of belief in the ancient world, it was not universally well-received—though its narrative that it was greeted with open arms everywhere was accepted as truth after the fact, in a landscape of temples in rubble, mutilated statuary, and lost libraries.

A fine history that is surely controversial in its view of how victims become victimizers and how professions of love turn to terror.

Pub Date: April 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-80088-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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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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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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