A THOUSAND SUNS

WITNESS TO HISTORY

An intriguing, albeit subjective, look at some of this century’s most interesting people. Lapierre (The City of Joy, 1985, etc.) has had the writing gig of the century. As a reporter for Paris Match, among other periodicals, he has traveled the world and chronicled some seminal historical moments. Here he recounts meetings with everyone from Mother Teresa to Mahatma Gandhi. Particularly riveting—and grippingly written—is a chapter on the last days of death-row inmate Caryl Chessman, who insisted on his innocence to his dying breath. Lapierre interviews Chessman six times and records firsthand each last-ditch effort to save the man, who eluded execution eight times in 12 years. The California judge’s call to stay the execution one last time reached the prison five seconds after the cyanide pills had been dropped into the sulfuric acid. Interspersed with the “interviews” is Lapierre’s own story, which raises this quibble: The book seems a tad self-serving at times. Was the famous bullfighter El Cordobes really a vital 20th-century figure—one of the “thousand suns” referred to in the Indian proverb from which the book derives its title—or is he a convenient, albeit fascinating, means to remind the reader that Lapierre and Larry Collins wrote a book (Or I’ll Dress You in Mourning) based on their Reader’s Digest profile of the Spaniard? Still, the book is lively and Lapierre a terrific tour guide. Besides, it’s hard to dislike an author who has used millions of dollars in book royalties to help bring medical care to desperately indigent people in Calcutta, a point Lapierre carefully annotates in an appendix that outlines the work he has accomplished there and in the Ganges Delta before giving addresses for readers who want to make donations. Memoir or selective chronicle of a century? Regardless, you’ll keep reading. (30 b&w photos)

Pub Date: March 15, 1999

ISBN: 0-446-52535-9

Page Count: 496

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1999

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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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