If much of what passes for foreign policy analysis is instant-formula baby food, this is the real thing and approaches developments in Russia over the past decade with refreshing if brutal candor. Simes, himself a Russian exile, was an advisor to Richard Nixon and arranged his last trips to Russia. It is a “profound misreading,” Simes contends, to think that the relationship with Russia will continue to be an “easy ride” for the US. Yeltsin’s reelection was not a “triumph of democracy,” and the Clinton administration does a significant disservice to the relationship and to its influence on Russia to pretend that it was. Indeed, Yeltsin has created a system in which “Al Capone would be more at home than Thomas Jefferson,” an oligarchy run by corrupt officials and industrialists which has alienated the people and done a rotten job of running the country. The bleakness of these views makes Simes’s own “cautious optimism” that much more surprising and perhaps persuasive. Despite an economic catastrophe in Russia more severe than the Great Depression in the US, he sees hope in the sheer extent of Russia’s resources, its well-trained labor force, its new entrepreneurial spirit, and the reluctance of the majority to contemplate a return to Soviet-style socialism. Which is not necessarily that good for the US: Simes believes that it is inevitable that Russia will increasingly direct its own path in foreign policy, particularly as it resolves its current economic difficulties, though for the time being it will be constrained by the need to retain Western support for its economy. He believes that the US, for its part, will need to show more understanding, more restraint, and less capriciousness in its foreign policy—which may be the one point at which the realism of the analysis becomes suspect. A bracing cold shower of a book, but all the more refreshing for it. (maps, not seen)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-684-82716-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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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

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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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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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