The stunning ``liberation'' of Romania from the tyranny of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu in 1989 gave veteran journalist (Hirohito, 1989, etc.) and novelist (Getting Even, 1980) Behr the impetus for this bold new look at the country's recent history. Dramatically beginning with the downfall and swift execution of the ruling couple, events that galvanized world attention, the sensational detailsa dwindling Ceausescu escape party as one follower after another slipped away, the overnight disappearance of their corpsesrapidly give way here to a more sedate chronicle of Romanian politics, starting with the royal family imported from Western Europe in the 19th century. Although active from the end of WW I, Communists failed to gain influence until the balance of power changed in 1946, after a Churchill-Stalin agreement placed the country in Soviet hands in exchange for Greece. A trusted subordinate of leader Gheorghiu-Dej, Ceausescu maneuvered himself into an influential Party position, snatching power in 1965. While Wester and Third World governments alike initially thought him a Dubcek-style innovator, he and his wife pampered themselves royally, living in secure and splendid isolation as the people faced increasing hardship and squalor. Here, no lack of informants amend the Ceausescu recordfamily members, dissidents, generals who planned a coupensuring a spirited revision of the official view, even if somewhat suspect given the tendency of interviewees to put a favorable spin on their own roles. A popular history, superficial but eminently readable, with the clear message that only the names of those in power have changed, and the real Romanian revolution is yet to come. (Eight pages of b&w photographsnot seen.)

Pub Date: May 31, 1991

ISBN: 0-679-40128-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 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...


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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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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