An engaging work of scholarly detection honoring a wacky hero who, it turns out, was right about a few things.




Here’s one thing Donovan and Ignatius Donnelly didn’t know: The Atlanteans ate lutefisk.

Atlantis has been a puzzle since Plato wrote obliquely of it 2,500 years ago, and the notion of a highly evolved civilization that one day disappeared under the waves continues to exert its hold. King (European History/Univ. of Kentucky) uncovers one of the Lost Continent’s most unlikely champions in this portrait of the Swedish scholar Olof Rudbeck, who grew up in a time and place that seems to have encouraged certain eccentricities. After all, Sweden’s Queen Christina had recently “converted to Catholicism, renounced the Swedish throne, and moved to Rome, where she allegedly rode into town dressed as an Amazon warrior.” Rudbeck, for his part, attracted attention by wading into a pile of cow in an Uppsala marketplace, where he discovered the lymphatic system and “correctly explained its functions in the body.” Appointed rector of Uppsala University in 1661, Rudbeck fell afoul of inquisitors intent on proving him a Cartesian heretic, but Rudbeck had weirder ambitions; on the shakiest of linguistic grounds, and working with a body of legend, folklore, and sagas, he set out to prove that the nearby countryside was the land of the Hyperboreans, that his hometown was once the capital of a vanished civilization, and that it was “absolutely urgent to rekindle the wisdom of Atlantis.” He brushed aside learned objections to his theories—yes, Atlantis was supposed to be an island, but Sweden was a peninsula, and that was close enough—and, indeed, brushed aside some of his official responsibilities while compiling a 2,500-page opus called the Atlantica and hunting funds to publish it. He finally secured them from Sweden’s king, but to not much avail, for historians even then were insisting on stronger evidence than mere conjecture, and “Rudbeck’s name was becoming synonymous, at least in some circles, with wild theorizing.” The result: the published volumes, too, all but disappeared.

An engaging work of scholarly detection honoring a wacky hero who, it turns out, was right about a few things.

Pub Date: June 14, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-4752-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harmony

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet