MICHEL FOUCAULT

A meticulous and authoritative biography of the influential French philosopher and historian, by an editor at Le Nouvel Observateur who was closely acquainted with Foucault during his later years. Foucault (1926-84) is known in this country mainly as one of the prime exemplars of structuralism, the radical school of thought developed in the late 60's and 70's to question the foundations of many social and philosophical systems. In reality, as Eribon makes clear, Foucault was more of an intellectual historian than a philosopher, and achieved his greatest successes when attempting to set forth the ``archaeology'' of a concept or idea. This is what he did in Madness and Civilization, which traced the development of Western notions of sanity and reason as reflected in social attitudes towards madness. His monumental History of Sexuality, left unfinished at his death, was to provide a similar blueprint for the modern understanding of eroticism. Eribon's exposition is readable and clear, and makes good use of the many interviews he held with Foucault during his lifetime, as well as his meetings with Foucault's colleagues and friends. The picture that emerges is of someone at once distant and complex: Foucault hated easy characterizations and refused to ``take sides'' when it came to politics or philosophy. His early dalliance with Marxism quickly gave way in the late 50's, and his later conservatism evaporated as soon as he won his post at the College de France (where, during the 70's and 80's, he became known as one of the most active leftists in the country). Solitary and rather reclusive despite his wide circle of friends, Foucault's public life was largely restricted to his professional writings, and it is to Eribon's credit that he concentrates mainly on these, since they provide the truest picture of Foucault available. Superbly written and carefully documented: Eribon has managed to provide a scholarly exegesis of Foucault that will also serve as a good introduction for the lay reader.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-674-57287-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1991

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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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