ANCESTRAL VOICES

RELIGION AND NATIONALISM IN IRELAND

A courageous book by one of the most distinguished living Irishmen (now pro-chancellor of the University of Dublin and an editor of both the Observer and the Atlantic Monthly), which slices through the superficial optimism currently prevailing about Northern Ireland. At the heart of the problem, for O'Brien (On the Eve of the Millennium, p. 1258, etc.), himself a Catholic, is the ``Catholic- nationalist ambivalence'' on Northern Ireland: ``On the one hand, one wants peace with it; on the other hand, one wants to destroy it.'' This ambivalence has been complicated, in O'Brien's view, by the role of the Catholic Church. For much of Irish history, the Church attempted to discourage expressions of nationalism, but in the latter half of the 19th century it began to support Catholic nationalism, in part to prevent the nationalist cause from being taken over by Protestants. The outcome of these ``ancestral voices'' inflaming nationalist feelings (as in the line from Coleridge's Kubla Khan, ``ancestral voices prophesying war'') was the Easter Rising of 1916 and the later civil war. The generation that experienced those miseries was ``vaccinated against the ancestral voices. The younger generation has no such immunity.'' In O'Brien's view, Gerry Adams, the leader of the political arm of Sinn FÇin, and John Hume, the leader of the Social Democratic and Labor Party, are manipulating the peace process to push Northern Ireland into an increasingly untenable position and intend to force the British to leave the country. O'Brien predicts that guerilla warfare will erupt again, that the British may go, ``leaving both sets of natives to fight it out,'' and that the ceasefire ``represents neither peace nor a basis on which peace can be constructed.'' The book bears some signs of haste in its composition, but its somber and persuasive message should gain it wide and deserved attention.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-226-61652-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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