THE FUTURE BELONGS TO FREEDOM

Fortunately for the publishers of Shevardnadze's quickie account of his years as the USSR's foreign minister, the author remained on the side of the angels during the recent, botched coup. Unfortunately for most readers, his selective and largely self- serving tract raises appreciably more questions than it answers. Shevardnadze (now 61) accords notably short shrift to his boyhood and subsequent career as a Communist Party official in Georgia, an omission that will leave many to wonder how he climbed the slippery pole of a provincial bureaucracy and what forces might have given him the will to pursue democratic, even populist, ideals. Nor, save for the brief assurance that he and Gorbachev became fast friends as young apparatchiks, does the author have much to say about his early relationship with the embattled Soviet President. In disjointedly recounting his role in resolving the Afghan conflict, the USSR's withdrawal from Eastern Europe, the Chernobyl disaster, and other epic events, Shevardnadze is scarcely more informative. At times, in fact, he's irritatingly coy. For example, he leaves to ``future textbooks on diplomacy'' the details of the compromise that enabled him and Deng Xiaoping to reach the agreement that normalized the Soviet Union's relations with mainland China. And with more piety than wit, he offers a wealth of rhetoric attesting to his abiding respect for human rights, the environment, economic opportunity, artistic expression, peace, international amity, and other politically correct values. The book's epilogue, though, written just in the past few days, offers an exciting eyewitness account of the coup and Shevardnadze's role in resisting it—and seems to put to rest his friendship with Gorbachev, whom he accuses of ``spoon-feeding the junta with...his poor judgment of people, his indifference towards his true allies, his distrust of democratic forces....'' On the evidence of the disappointingly exiguous memoir at hand, Shevardnadze would have been well advised to let his dramatic year-end 1990 resignation speech, in which he explicitly warned against the threat of dictatorship, continue to speak for itself.

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 1991

ISBN: 0-02-928617-4

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1991

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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 PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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