Best for those already familiar with The Gate, but also a good choice for readers who enjoy philosophical arguments about...

FACING THE TORTURER

An honest exploration of what it means to share moments of humanity with a man most people would consider inhuman.

French ethnologist Bizot has already written one book (The Gate, 2003) about his three-month stay in a Khmer Rouge prison, where he was interrogated by a man named Comrade Duch, who later went to trial for war crimes. This new work provides background about the circumstances that brought the men together in 1971, their subsequent meetings and Bizot’s decision to write The Gate. The author also writes about Duch’s trial, at which he was a witness. The author’s goal is to make sense of his feelings about Duch, in particular his conclusion that the “butcher of Tuol Sleng” was capable of acts of humanity. Bizot seems to resist this conclusion, perhaps because it makes him confront the evil in all humankind. He also has a difficult time explaining his conclusion, weaving beautiful sentences that tend toward the convoluted. More concrete information on his experiences with Duch would help readers understand Bizot’s discoveries about human nature. As it stands, eloquent language cannot obscure the fact that these unfocused, stream-of-consciousness musings have been written with an eye to aesthetics rather than concision or ease of understanding. Luckily, the book is not comprised entirely of Bizot’s maze of thoughts. Its most compelling section is the postscript, which contains his trial testimony and Duch’s reaction to The Gate. These offer insights into the Cambodian’s personality and help us understand the humanity Bizot sees in him. They also, through the words of both men during the trial, show in a more substantive way the ambivalence with which Bizot struggles.

Best for those already familiar with The Gate, but also a good choice for readers who enjoy philosophical arguments about the dichotomy between good and evil.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-27350-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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