A valuable portrait of a society moving toward fulfilling “the promises of freedom and democracy” of the Arab Spring—but...




Former New York Times Cairo bureau chief Kirkpatrick delivers a sharply detailed firsthand look at Tahrir Square and its aftershocks.

As an opening parable in this morally charged chronicle of practical politics and the consequences of unaccountable centralized power, the author offers the example of the great Aswan Dam, built in the 1950s by President Gamel Abdel Nasser of Egypt for electricity, with many millions of American dollars behind it. The dam displaced 120,000 people, killed fish, silted the Nile, and led to “an explosion in waterborne diseases.” Yet Nasser’s government and the Western powers alike declared the dam a victory. So it was in 2011, when Egypt shook off one near dictatorship and replaced it with another only to have a military coup replace that strongman and further crack down on dissent. Such victory as there is to declare is hard to discern. Egypt is poor, overpopulated, and riddled with a corrupt bureaucracy, but apart from that, Kirkpatrick writes, it defies the usual characterizations. Israel and Egypt have cooperated, against all expectation, in fighting the Islamic State group; Egyptian women are perhaps more politically engaged than American women; Islamists willing to commit terror are in it for more than the promise of a harem in the afterlife; and so on. Pushing away layers of myth, the author depicts a complex, straining-to-be-modern society that is hampered by autocracy and has long been so. It has also been betrayed and seduced by it, as when Mohamed Morsi talked a game good enough that, by defying the generals, for liberals and leftists, he briefly “appeared to be, as he had promised, their president, too.” He was not, but it seems he was better than the military alternative—a lesson lost on the American government, Kirkpatrick writes, which pushed for democracy on one hand but for order on the other and in the end got neither.

A valuable portrait of a society moving toward fulfilling “the promises of freedom and democracy” of the Arab Spring—but with a way to go still.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2062-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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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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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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