An erudite and breathtaking, if sometimes vexing, review of how our waning millennium might seem from the perspective of ``some galactic museum of the future.'' An American or European reader of the 1990s will be forgiven for thinking of this millennium as one of Western preeminence. This is a myopic viewpoint, contends historian Fern†ndez-Armesto (Columbus, 1991, etc.). Of the major civilizations in the year 1000, the relatively advanced Chinese-dominated civilizations of the Far East seem in retrospect most likely to have influenced world history. Fern†ndez-Armesto argues that by the 15th century, each of the four major civilizationsChina, Latin Christendom, Eastern Christendom, and Islamwas prepared for expansion. The expeditions of French, English, Spanish, Dutch, and Portuguese conquerors are depicted as a part of a worldwide trend toward empire-building that encompassed not only the major civilizations but also cultures of South America and the sub-Sahara. Fern†ndez- Armesto asserts that from the 16th century through the 19th, Europeans and Euro-Americans built an ``Atlantic civilization'' that, although frail, achieved dominance over natural resources and had transformative effects all over the world. When, after its brief hegemony, Atlantic civilization started to unravel, decolonization and ``counter-colonization'' (immigration and cultural domination of Atlantic countries by members of former colonies) ensued. Finally, the resurgent Islamic and Pacific civilizations are challenging the supremacy of Atlantic civilization. Although he takes the reader on a richly detailed, exciting journey through history, Fern†ndez-Armesto gets a bit too caught up with his Atlantic/Pacific categories (at one point he even classifies the economically vital state of California as part of his Pacific civilization) and ultimately mars his survey with some thinly reasoned speculations about the future. If his study has shown anything, it is that such facile predictions are likely to be wrong. Nonetheless, a scholarly, entertaining, and astonishing look at the enormous distance humankind has traveled in a historical instant. (400 b&w photos and illustrations, not seen) (Book-of-the- Month Club alternate selection/History Book Club main selection)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-684-80361-5

Page Count: 864

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1995

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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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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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