Gilmour charts Curzon’s life through success and failure, turning in a well-formed view of the late imperial era in the...

CURZON

IMPERIAL STATESMAN

A magisterial life of the renowned British politician and empire-builder.

Like his near-contemporary Rudyard Kipling, the subject of Gilmour’s recent The Long Recessional (2002), George Nathaniel Curzon believed that Europe had a duty to bring civilization to the non-European world. Curzon’s belief had a decidedly paternalistic component. As viceroy of India, he believed that his subjects were not necessarily corrupt, but certainly degenerate; Gilmour writes that “he found them childlike and often aggravating, but there can be no doubt that he liked them.” Curzon came by a sense of hauteur honestly, having been descended from a family that traced its ancestry to one of William the Conqueror’s lieutenants; yet he dismissed those ancestors as “a feeble lot,” arguing that the family would not have possessed the same estate since the 12th century “had they manifested the very slightest energy or courage.” Say what you will about his beliefs—and plenty of critics, including Winston Churchill and Lloyd George, twitted him for one thing or another at every turn—Curzon was indeed energetic and courageous, and he explored and wrote about vast portions of Central Asia before settling in to a four-decade career in imperial administration. In this work he had checkered success, for Curzon was not particularly well liked at home, in part because he was so openly contemptuous of his lessers and colleagues (and, one suspects, the royals as well). Too, writes Gilmour, Curzon often swam against the tide of world events, arguing in the wake of WWI that Egypt should not be granted independence and that Britain should not give in to nationalist movements in its colonies. Still, as subsequent events have shown, he was often right, as when he agitated for an independent Kurdistan against protests from Ottoman diplomats—sniffing, of course, that “he could tell a Kurd from a Turk any day of the week.”

Gilmour charts Curzon’s life through success and failure, turning in a well-formed view of the late imperial era in the bargain. An outstanding biography of an important historical figure.

Pub Date: June 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-374-13356-5

Page Count: 728

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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