An insightful airing of dirty cassocks within papal politics, from a masterful, controversial scholar.

PRISONER OF THE VATICAN

THE POPE’S SECRET PLOT TO CAPTURE ROME FROM THE NEW ITALIAN STATE

Contrary to the history books, the Middle Ages didn’t end with the Renaissance in Italy. They lasted until September 20, 1870, when “Europe’s last theocratic government was ended.”

So writes Kertzer (History/Brown Univ.; The Popes Against the Jews, 2001, etc.) in this rousing tale of clerical skullduggery and topsy-turvy politics, laced with plenty of cross-border intrigue. Pope Pius IX had made no secret of his hatred for democracy, nationalism, and other modernizing political forces sweeping Europe in the mid-19th century, and for good reason: a united secular Italy, the dream of Garibaldi and his red-shirted legions, could mean only that papal power would wane, and Pius counted as a great blasphemy the modern notion that “Church and state should be separate or that the papacy could survive and even flourish without owning its own land.” Even if the Savoyard king opposing Pius was unimpressive (“Lazy and pig-headed, he had little sense of his own limits, which were considerable”), and even if Italy, “a patchwork of states and duchies propped up by foreign forces,” was ill-equipped for unification, the leaders of the Vatican sensed that they were on the losing side of history and that the increasingly whittled-away Papal States were not long for the world. Thus a campaign of intrigues, some involving assassination attempts on revolutionary and monarchical leaders, some seeking the intervention of France and Austria, the two leading Catholic powers of the time, against the Italian government. Even as such efforts failed, the Vatican promulgated a new doctrine—that of papal infallibility. Vatican scheming against the Italian state continued even after Pius’s death, writes Kertzer, and it was not until after WWI that a successor pope lifted the ban against Catholics’ serving in parliament or even voting. Whereupon the Vatican, eager now to battle socialism, forged a pact with Mussolini, granting it sovereign-nation status and requiring that Catholicism be Italy’s sole and official religion.

An insightful airing of dirty cassocks within papal politics, from a masterful, controversial scholar.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2004

ISBN: 0-618-22442-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2004

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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 clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

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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