THE ENCHANTRESS

MARTHE BIBESCO AND HER WORLD

Too much like her heroine, author Sutherland is so seduced by power and glamour that she inflates her subject's literary and historical significance. Sutherland (The Princess of Siberia, 1983; Monica, 1990) has spent most of her career chronicling the lives of oft-forgotten, aristocratic European women who have played a role in political and historical events. Her latest effort concerns Marthe Bibesco (18861973), Wallachian princess, author, confidante of countless heads of state, and jet-setter par excellence. From an early age, Bibesco was surrounded by men and women of power, money, and standing; she spent much of her adult life pursuing this vanishing troika in the postWW I decades. Daughter of the Romanian minister of foreign affairs, she entered an arranged marriage to a rich rake, and the two proceeded to take lovers and lead largely separate lives. Moving between Bucharest and Paris, her various country homes and palaces, and her various European watering holes and vacation destinations, Bibesco took up writing to fill an emotional void resulting from a loveless marriage, family deaths and suicides, and a general malaise caused by the end of aristocratic rule. After WW II she was even reduced to earning a living by writing to support her family in exile. At least this is the picture as presented by Sutherland. The problem is that Sutherland narrates these events without hazarding any ideas about Bibesco's literary or intellectual evolution. To her credit, she soberly dismisses some of Bibesco's many literary works as failures. And she argues that Bibesco could be seen as an early proponent of European unity. However, if this biography conveys one clear message, it is that there is a vast difference between Bibesco's aristocratic, conservative notions of Europeanism and more modern, egalitarian, and democratic views. Here historical events appear only as backdrops to the real focus of this disappointing narrative—designer clothing, fancy cars, Europe's haut monde, and jaded royal circles. (photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-374-14814-7

Page Count: 420

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1996

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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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