An astute assessment of the efforts of a group of historic newsmakers.




In a highly focused work, Foreign Affairs deputy editor Caryl finds that the year 1979 engendered a remarkable crop of history-changing leaders.

The author defines a counterrevolutionary as “a conservative who has learned from the revolution.” This befits the leaders he profiles here—Deng Xiaoping, Margaret Thatcher, Ayatollah Khomeini and Pope John Paul II—who emerged from the fires of the turbulent 1970s. They were, alternately, called revivalist, reactionary or radical, but they were the leaders of the hour, for better or worse, defining the direction of ideological currents up until the present. With the United States mired in political cynicism, an energy crisis and stagflation, the Soviet Union took advantage of a loosening of détente by bolstering its strategic presence in Afghanistan that was to help pull down the entire communist structure. In Iran, the people demonstrating against the hated shah rallied behind Khomeini, returning from long years in exile, radicalized and resolved to harness the popular discontent in an Islamic Republic. Similarly, in China, with the death of Mao Zedong, newly rehabilitated warrior Deng recognized the need to direct the pent-up pressures from the Cultural Revolution in a gradual leaking of private enterprise that unloosened decades of communist orthodoxy and unleashed economic growth. Meanwhile, the unlikely conservative leader Thatcher sailed to power by repudiating the postwar consensus on the British welfare state and embracing a merciless economic refurbishment involving monetarism and privatization. Another popular movement, among beleaguered Polish miners, got an enormous boost from the visit of the new pope, John Paul II, formerly their own Karol Wojtyla, who lifted the fear from the long-subjugated masses of Eastern Europe. As ably shown by Caryl, the events of this cataclysmic year would continue to bear fruit for years to come.

An astute assessment of the efforts of a group of historic newsmakers.

Pub Date: May 7, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-465-01838-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 25, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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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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