ON KILLING

THE PSYCHOLOGICAL COST OF LEARNING TO KILL IN WAR AND SOCIETY

Some perceptive, original ideas can be dredged out of this awkwardly written, haphazardly annotated treatise on the psychological forces that come into play in killing on the battlefield. Grossman is not shy about repeatedly describing himself and his credentials as ``a psychologist who is also a historian and a career soldier,'' having served two decades in the Army. He certainly brings a wealth of experience and diverse perspectives to this book, but despite his 20 years of military service, Grossman has not killed in combat. On the other hand, he has interviewed many men who have and has studied the literature about the psychology of killing and its aftermath. Despite his strident tone, Grossman imparts a few insightful ideas about his difficult subject. His main achievement is clearly spelling out what he calls ``society's unspoken conspiracy of deception that glorifies killing and war.'' The author shows the extremely unpleasant nature of war by illuminating the ``emotional reactions and underlying processes'' that result in the often longlasting psychological damage that befalls soldiers who kill other human beings on the battlefield. He explains that it is entirely normal when those who, in battle, have overcome our innate resistance to killing experience postwar adjustment problems, including remorse and guilt (though he notes distinct differences between those who kill at close range and those, like bomber pilots, who kill at a distance). Grossman's most valuable section is his reiteration of the special problems faced by Vietnam veterans, who came home to an often indifferent and sometimes antagonistic reception. ``Only the veterans of Vietnam,'' the author rightly points out, ``have endured a concerted, organized, psychological attack by their own people.'' A reader-unfriendly look at an unpleasant but important subject. (16 charts, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 1995

ISBN: 0-316-33000-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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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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