THE AGE OF EXTREMES

A HISTORY OF THE WORLD, 1914-1991

A troubling look at world history during the ``Short Twentieth Century,'' from 1914 to 1991. Hobsbawm (History/Univ. of London; The Jazz Age, 1992, etc.) divides his review of this tumultuous period into thirds: the ``Age of Catastrophe'' from 1914 through 1945, when the world was continually either engaged in vastly destructive wars or preparing for them; the ``Golden Age,'' from 1945 to 1973, characterized by a standoff between capitalist and communist blocs and by increasing wealth and social revolution in the capitalist sector; and the ``Landslide'' after 1973, when the world ``lost its bearing and slid into instability and crisis.'' The author points out that this short span of the 20th century saw the disappearance or diminution of the world's ancient kingdoms, empires, and great powers; the waging of the two most destructive wars in world history and many minor ones; multiplication of world population; a growing threat of ecological disaster; and technologically orchestrated death on a mass scale. At the same time, the author notes, there was unprecedented economic prosperity in the postWW II years, and triumphs of science and technology promised to better the lot of humankind, at least in the richer countries. Reviewing transformations in social mores, global economy, politics, and the arts, Hobsbawm concludes that the world is now radically less Eurocentric than it was before WW I and much more integrated in transport, communications, and economics—so much so that the very term ``national economy'' may be outmoded. At the same time, societies are significantly more anomic and individualistic as ancient patterns of human relationships have disintegrated. The socialist historian concludes that the human race cannot prosper in the face of the continued growth of world capitalism and relentless change. This eloquent, well-written, and depressing review of the folly and tragedy of humankind's recent past is even more oppressive when it looks into what appears to be an unstable future. (32 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 1995

ISBN: 0-394-58575-5

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1994

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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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