An entertaining blend of tenacious scholarship, rigorous argument, and lucid exposition. (maps, photos, illustrations,...



Noted Egyptologist El Mahdy (Exploring the World of the Pharaohs, not reviewed) separates legend from history in the story of the king whose short life has long captivated the public.

El Mahdy (whose interest in Egypt began when she was seven years old) declares that she finds the "private face" of the boy-king "far more intriguing than the alluring glitter of the gold he was buried with." In her complex though always engaging narrative El Mahdy accomplishes a number of tasks. She acquaints general readers with the foundations of ancient Egyptian civilization (including geography, religion, family, government, communications, nomenclature, and chronology). She tells the riveting story of the 1922 discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb and the subsequent political struggles for control of the excavation and the artifacts. She relates what has become the "official" account of the boy-king, "the whole" of which, she says, "is completely untrue." And, finally, in a remarkable employment of archaeological evidence to support historical inference she constructs a convincing biography of the mysterious Tutankhamen who was crowned as a 7-year-old 3,500 years ago but ruled only about 9 years. Recognizing that scholarship often "finds a limited reading market, while wild theories . . . reach a wide readership," El Mahdy pauses periodically to puncture the inflated stories about the boy-king and about Egyptology in general. She emphasizes that the Egyptians never placed "a curse on entering a tomb"—quite the contrary (visitors were encouraged)—and she characterizes as "totally fallacious" the popular accounts of King Tut's curse. She argues, as well, against the pervasive notion that the boy-king was murdered ("out of the question," she declares) and establishes an alternative explanation—that he "died suddenly and of natural causes." The book's title is a bit misleading: El Mahdy spends most of her time dismantling the legends about the boy-king and establishing the firm historical foundation of his family. Her reconstruction of his brief life consumes only about 20 pages.

An entertaining blend of tenacious scholarship, rigorous argument, and lucid exposition. (maps, photos, illustrations, diagrams)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-312-26241-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2000

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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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