Raw and compelling; a story well told of a vital and varied life in a war-torn region.

Left Field

THE MEMOIR OF A LIFELONG ACTIVIST

The British-born founder of an international nonprofit organization traces his activism in this debut memoir.

Wilson may have been born in Britain, but it wasn’t long before he had an urge to discover the world. At age 13, he was sent to live at a school where he became a social outcast with the nickname “Commie Wilson.” One of his only two school friends mentioned that his father lived in Argentina, so at 17, Wilson announced to his parents that he would be leaving to work there. Coming of age in South America (as well as losing his virginity), the peripatetic Wilson then returned to England only to depart again for a 10-day holiday on an island in Yugoslavia, where he met Renata, the girl who would become his wife. The author had his initial real awakening to the harsh reality of the world when he first visited Zagreb to meet Renata’s family. In 1968, when he returned to Zagreb to marry, it was a time of war in Yugoslavia. Wilson’s connection to that country continued; he ended up representing a Croatian painter and traveling back from London to Zagreb, where he was directly exposed to the Bosnian War. This turning point in Wilson’s life led to the co-founding of War Child, a nonprofit organization originally started to call attention to the plight of Bosnian children. It also ended his first marriage because “I preferred to be in a war zone rather than be at home with her.” Through a series of high-profile, celebrity-laden fundraisers, War Child continued to achieve remarkable success, but it was a charity concert by Luciano Pavarotti that indirectly led to Wilson’s next position as director of the Mostar Music Centre in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina. With a keen eye for detail, the author recounts his diverse experiences in the embattled region, including encountering Bosnian refugees (“I felt fear for myself and sorrow for the plight of these people….They could have been refugees in any war: suitcases tied with string, a live animal if they were lucky”). His shared heart-wrenching observations are clearly a highlight of this richly textured, moving work. The book ends with a different voice in a chapter by Wilson’s second wife, Anne, who writes poignantly about her first trip to Mostar.

Raw and compelling; a story well told of a vital and varied life in a war-torn region.

Pub Date: May 5, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Unbound Digital

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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