Eye-opening in its vast cache of references.

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SAILING FROM BYZANTIUM

HOW A LOST EMPIRE SHAPED THE WORLD

Comprehensive examination of the formative influence of Byzantine culture and scholarship on Western Europe, the Islamic world and the Slavic nations.

First-time author Wells breaks up the saga of Constantinople (Byzantium to the ancient world) into three sections based on the principle cultures it helped shape from the time of Emperor Justinian’s rule in the sixth century a.d. until the year 1453, when the Turks finally overwhelmed the legendary walled city and made it their capital. Each section overlaps the other two yet contains its own formidable cast of characters, including obscure ecclesiasts, and exhaustive examinations of philosophical nuances particular to its culture. Readers get considerable help in deciphering this relatively esoteric material from the book’s front matter: capsule biographies of key personages; a comparative timeline covering all three regions; and eight historical maps. While the aim is to make available to a general audience what has been a rarified area of scholarship, readers will need incentive to plow through it all. The rewards are incisive perspectives on the all-but-forgotten roots of an elemental ideological clash between Faith and Reason that still resonates today. If Byzantine scholars had not preserved ancient Greek culture, Wells establishes, Western Europe might well never have recovered the pillars of literature, philosophy and science upon which to build the Renaissance. Plutarch, the so-called father of humanism, may not quite have mastered the 56 different noun types and other complexities of ancient Greek, but Florentine scholars of the golden Quattrocentro were all over it a few generations later, the author reminds us. Islamic thinkers came to Byzantium to worship the legacy of Aristotle centuries before Wahabism overcame the quest for knowledge in a declining society. The emerging Slavs, particularly Bulgars and Russians, literally begged for Christian missionaries, thereby assuring Byzantium’s Greek Orthodox religion a place in posterity.

Eye-opening in its vast cache of references.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-553-80381-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2006

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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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