This harrowing and engrossing account of the chaos of Russia in the '90s leaves the reader as stunned as the Russians currently struggling for their very survival. Reports about life in postSoviet Russia saturate the media, leading the American audience to think it may have heard all there is to know. But seasoned journalist Randolph offers a model of reliable journalism and inspired prose, a fortunate alliance that lends freshness to some familiar subjects: Russia's new entrepreneurs and mafia; its traditional and alternative health care; the efforts of its artists, its women, and its youth to find some better way of life. Randolph, who reported from Russia for the Washington Post from 1991 to 1993, describes her time there as ``like watching an explosion in slow motion.'' Life is wild, unpredictable, violent, the police inept or invisible, crime of all kinds flourishing, the government at a standstill. Most Russians have little choice but to live in some ways outside the law. The name of the game is survival; the word appears repeatedly in Randolph's profiles, bringing cohesion and analytical depth to her portraits of farmers and would-be entrepreneurs, ballerinas and hustlers, gay activists and faith healers, making vividly comprehensible the uncertainty, danger, and excitement felt by Russians compelled to live on the frontier of capitalism. Her depiction of how various Russians cope with their uncertainties gains vigor from the extended interviews she conducted during her stay in Moscow and on follow-up visits. The dynamic and complex picture that results is bolstered by Randolph's witty style, which allows readers to share some of the shocks inflicted by her encounters—as with the bioenergy pathologist who massaged her head for sinus trouble, his hands grease-blackened from fixing his car. It is Randolph's game willingness to enter into the wild world of the new Russia that keeps the reader turning the pages. Ordinary life, in Randolph's hands, is truly extraordinary.

Pub Date: June 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-684-80912-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1996

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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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