This memoir will not silence Teller’s many critics; indeed, it will provide them further ammunition. Still, a useful, if (of...

MEMOIRS

A TWENTIETH-CENTURY JOURNEY IN SCIENCE AND POLITICS

“Fear of science and technology, which have empowered humans since the beginning of history, is the height of folly”: so writes Teller, inventor of the H-bomb and reputed model for Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove.

Now 93, Teller appears ready to forgive old foes like J. Robert Oppenheimer, who turns up at many points in this oddly engaging memoir. Not that he was wrong, he hastens to add, in not defending “Oppie” when the latter was dismissed from his nuclear-weapons research position as a security threat, having flirted with communism and having made, in Teller’s presence, odd references to governmental tyranny. He even forgives atom spy Klaus Fuchs for his treason, for, writes Teller, “from what I have seen of the competence of Soviet scientists, I have reason to believe that they could have produced the weapons independently, once they knew that an atomic bomb could be produced.” Teller’s overarching theme here is the politics of science, the application of political power to questions of technology, and he writes as an evident master of the game, basically untroubled by the moral implications of the weapons he developed—but convinced nevertheless that Harry Truman would have done better to explode an A-bomb over Tokyo Bay during the evening rush hour so that the Japanese could have witnessed its power and surrendered without loss of life. Though it will be disturbing to many readers, Teller’s narrative has many fine moments: he writes affectingly of his youth in a Hungary, and later Germany, in which anti-Semitism was on the rise, pays quiet homage to his beloved late wife, and even explains how he lost a foot in an accident involving a trolley car. (Terry Southern and Kubrick cruelly commemorated that loss by placing their Dr. Strangelove in a wheelchair.) But those fine moments are diminished somewhat by Teller’s snappish dismissals of those who question the ethics of modern science, and he closes by insisting that we moderns have nothing to fear from today’s bugbears such as genetically modified food, cloning, and nuclear power, all of which, he assures us, will lead to a brighter tomorrow.

This memoir will not silence Teller’s many critics; indeed, it will provide them further ammunition. Still, a useful, if (of course) self-serving, contribution to the history of science and the literature of the Cold War.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7382-0532-X

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Perseus

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2001

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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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