An eye-opening look at an Eden of eco-villages gradually giving way to economic exigencies.

CHASING UTOPIA

THE FUTURE OF THE KIBBUTZ IN A DIVIDED ISRAEL

A personal journey back to the kibbutz of the author’s youth prompts an examination of the larger reasons for the Israeli disenchantment with the pioneering enterprise.

In 1988, suffering a broken heart and at odds about what to do with his life, Canadian journalist Leach (Journalism and Creative Nonfiction/Univ. of Victoria, BC; Fatal Tide: When the Race of a Lifetime Goes Wrong, 2008, etc.), who is not Jewish, ventured to Israel to work on a kibbutz to experience communal living and hard farm labor. He ended up at the Shamir kibbutz and stayed for eight months as a volunteer in a commune of 500 people, working for his room and board and laboring at various tasks in the kitchen and on the grounds. Upon his return to Israel 20 years later, now a middle-aged father with children, Leach found enormous changes—not only to Shamir, which had embraced privatization in the mid-2000s and listed its Optical Industry on NASDAQ, but the whole kibbutz (“gathering”) system, largely privatized out of economic necessity. Since the establishment of the first kibbutz in the early 1900s, the grass-roots experiment has been envisioned as a “collective paradise for an evolved human species,” a utopian vision of absolute equality derived from ideals by Leo Tolstoy and first implemented by Zionist philosopher Aaron David Gordon. Although Gordon believed that Jewish immigrants could live peaceably with their Arab neighbors, as Leach learned, many kibbutzim were built on land confiscated from the Arabs with the establishment of Israel in 1948. Moreover, from Shamir to other kibbutzim Leach visited across the country, the communes had moved from “hard socialism to soft capitalism” with the advent of the Likud Party in 1977. Leach’s report is both affectingly personal, delving into many intimate stories of visionaries, and a sound historical study.

An eye-opening look at an Eden of eco-villages gradually giving way to economic exigencies.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-77041-340-5

Page Count: 344

Publisher: ECW Press

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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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 moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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