With exceptional wit and understanding, Illies shows the societal and cultural changes propelling man toward modern art, new...

1913

THE YEAR BEFORE THE STORM

In his first English-language translation, German author Illies scours the landscape of the year 1913, making a leap into a fascinating new structure of writing.

The author uses excerpts from journals of now-famous people in the capitals of modernism, including Vienna, Munich, Paris and Berlin. He explains their ideas and snatches quotes and tosses them apparently willy-nilly into chronological chapters. However, due to the author’s creative talent, the structure of the narrative works like a charm. Among the many events that occurred during that year: Franz Kafka wrote bizarre letters to his love, Felice Bauer; the Die Brücke group of expressionist artists stumbled toward collapse; Hitler sold a few watercolors; Stalin remained in exile; the Mona Lisa was still missing; James Joyce was teaching English in Trieste, Italy; and Gustav Mahler’s widow, Alma, was refusing to marry Oskar Kokoschka unless he painted her in a masterpiece. Though the narrative may seem disjointed at first, readers will continue to turn the pages to see what becomes of Thomas Mann and his brother or to see Carl Jung daring to challenge Freud’s theories. Illies happily neglects all the political stirrings that would lead to war the following year. Instead, he follows members of the modernist arts, with Marcel Proust touching a nerve of the avant-garde and Mann exploring tormented passions in Death in Venice. Also included: Ezra Pound contacts Joyce, Kafka broods, Albert Camus is born in Algeria, and 15-year-old Bertolt Brecht has a cold.

With exceptional wit and understanding, Illies shows the societal and cultural changes propelling man toward modern art, new thought processes and war. An excellent companion to Keith Jackson’s equally illuminating Constellation of Genius (2013), which gives similar treatment to the year 1922.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-61219-351-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Melville House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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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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