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A dialogue between two friends who have been prominent 20th- century figures on such topics as wide-ranging as childhood, faith, war, and literature. The contrasts between the late French president Franáois Mitterrand (The Wheat and the Chaff, 1982), who died in January of this year, and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel (All Rivers Run To the Sea, 1995, etc.) resound more emphatically than any similarities. While Mitterrand's childhood was almost idyllic, Wiesel's was haunted by fear: "Fear of anti-semitic thugs, fear of demons, fear of God." Yet it was Mitterrand—raised as a practicing Catholic- -who came to doubt the existence of a supreme being after experiencing the cruelties and injustices of WW II. Wiesel, on the other hand, accepts that certain things may be beyond human understanding. And although it is Wiesel who went through the horrors of the Holocaust, it is Mitterrand who holds the more pessimistic view of mankind ("We have still not evolved beyond the barbaric stage of evolution"). Both express horror at the recent resurgence of dangerous religious fanaticism. The fundamentalist, insists Wiesel, "denies the right of inquiry and therefore negates culture." While Mitterrand has been sympathetic to Jews and the Jewish state, he expresses considerable empathy with the Palestinian cause. A two-state solution, he insists, is the only just one. Wiesel is less than optimistic and more wary of the Palestinians. The book's last two sections involve discussions on literature and power. Wiesel leans to Kafka, where Mitterrand prefers Tolstoy. The writer generously draws from the politician his ideas about creativity and does not offer his own theories on the dynamics of leadership. Indeed, Wiesel is often playing the role of the admiring interviewer here, but the more profound and readable comments are his. Not the intimate memoir of its title, nor a place to glean insights into the personal lives of these two public figures. But private thoughts on significant public issues abound.

Pub Date: July 1, 1996

ISBN: 1559703792

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1996

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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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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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