A fresh and color-drenched memoir by an artist unafraid to offend.

PARTY IN THE BLITZ

THE ENGLISH YEARS

Vivid portraits, affectionate but unsparing, of people encountered by Nobel laureate Canetti (Notes from Hampstead, 1998, etc.) while living in England.

Canetti (1905–94) was very social, and he encountered a good swathe of personalities from the moment he arrived in England in 1939. He found warmth, sensitivity and integrity in the ordinary folks who swept streets and rented rooms. He was less taken with the artists, intellectuals, politicians and aristocrats who constituted the bulk of his acquaintance (and a cross-section of England’s hierarchy). T.S. Eliot represented for Canetti all that was thin-lipped, cold-hearted and prematurely old in British life. Of Eliot’s fame, he writes, “Is it possible ever to repent sufficiently of that?” He was just as judgmental about Iris Murdoch, though she had been his occasional lover: “Iris is what I would call an ‘illegitimate’ writer. She never suffered from having to write.” Recounting his associations with a panorama of English characters, Canetti is by turns a memoirist, satirist and anthropologist. The volcanic emotions expressed here are perhaps best understood as his response to the chilliness of British manners. He hated the polite, implacably hierarchal laws of English society, a stance that allowed him to admire Conservative MP Enoch Powell’s passion while stating that “I don’t know that I have ever encountered anyone quite so antithetical to everything I stand for.” He found more common ground with thoughtful eccentrics like the inventor Geoffrey Pyke and the Orientalist Arthur Waley. Before leaving for Zurich in 1984, Canetti got off a final salvo, this one at Margaret Thatcher’s government: “the claque of the apostles of selfishness.”

A fresh and color-drenched memoir by an artist unafraid to offend.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2005

ISBN: 0-8112-1636-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2005

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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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