A trim, at times hypnotic, history of polar exploration. Almost like a documentary filmmaker, Holland (former archivist at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, England) has cut and spliced ships' logs, sailors' journals, and other primary sources, adding his own narrative bridges, to present a history of Western encounters with the Arctic. Spurred by mercantilism and nationalism during the age of discovery, European nations sought new lands to colonize and a northwest passage from the Atlantic to the trading centers of Asia. Few who made it into the high latitudes remained untouched by the austere magic of the region. The mid-16th-century Dutch officer Gerrit De Veer wrote: ``Wee saw the first Ice, which we wondered at, at the first, thinking that it had beene white Swannes.'' Later European expeditions to the Arctic had scientific, as well as commercial, missions. And after the North American Arctic had been gradually mapped in the 19th century (mostly by ships sent to search for the ill-fated Franklin Expedition), the North Pole itself became a destination. Over 400 miles away from the nearest point of land along the northern shore of Greenland, the Pole is a spot on the frozen Arctic Ocean devoid of life and without any commercial or geopolitical value. But people wanted to reach it. In 1897, Solomon August AndrÇe made an attempt via unpowered silk hydrogen balloon. He didn't make it, joining a long list of people who had died or were yet to perish in pursuit of a passage or the pole before Robert Peary announced his success in September 1909. Frederick Cook's claim to have reached the pole before Peary has been discredited, though the argument still simmers in polar circles. Thanks are due to Holland for his own smart commentary and for delivering the best of 400 years' worth of source material. These days, if you have enough money, you can have a BBQ at the pole and a sauna back aboard the icebreaker. Heroic polar firsts are a thing of the past, but going over these attempts still makes for an absorbing evening. (Illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 1994

ISBN: 0-7867-0128-5

Page Count: 314

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1994

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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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