An eye-opening safari into the history and psychobiography of African exploration. McLynn (Burton, 1991, etc.) begins with a brightly colored sketch of the European canvassing of Africa, from Mungo Park's quest in the late 1700's for the source of the Niger to the successful penetration nearly a century later of the last blank spots on the map by German, French, and English adventurers. In between came a host of pith-helmeted derring-doers, most notably Burton, Livingstone, Speke, and Stanley. As McLynn sees it, all were driven by demons, from Stanley's sadomasochism to Burton's hatred of blacks to Livingstone's misanthropy. Upon this historical framework, the author builds his most unusual contribution: a thematic, transhistorical analysis of African exploration, covering in depth such topics as transport, the ivory trade, and the influence of imperialism. The impression grows of a nightmare continent of disease, warfare, and slavery into which Europeans brought their own cruelties and manias, at great peril and for little profit. McLynn provides fascinating, little-found information about everything from favored apparel (umbrellas, dark glasses) to porterage styles (because of the tsetse fly, domesticated animals couldn't survive in the African interior, so the human foot became the main means of exploration) to the eating habits of the black mamba. A close scrutiny of a few months in Stanley's 1874-75 transverse of Tanzania provides a case study of typical obstacles faced by the explorers. The blemish on this peach of a book comes at the end, when McLynn attempts—as did Fawn M. Brodie and others before him—to psychoanalyze the great explorers: Talk of mother fixation and other libidinous undercurrents sounds sadly reductionist in the face of these explorers' extraordinary feats. Except for those Freudian shadows, much bright light on the Dark Continent.

Pub Date: May 14, 1993

ISBN: 0-88184-926-X

Page Count: 390

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1993

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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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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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