All in all, an amateurish entry in a literature already dominated by outstanding professional work.

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VILLA AND ZAPATA

A HISTORY OF THE MEXICAN REVOLUTION

Villa rides again, but this horse limps.

At the outset, heavily published pop biographer McLynn (Carl Gustav Jung, 1997, etc.) points to three books that he calls a “lodestar” in studying the lives of Mexican revolutionaries Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata: Alan Knight’s two-volume Mexican Revolution, John Womack’s Zapata and the Mexican Revolution, and Friedrich Katz’s recently published Life and Times of Pancho Villa. He is right to rely on those books, which historians regard as standard texts. Sadly, he hasn’t done much with this densely written tome to match their accomplishments, except, as an English writer, to add some side notes on Winston Churchill’s curious involvement in the internal affairs of faraway Mexico. (Churchill had his reasons: after all, McLynn notes, the British held 55 percent of all foreign investments in Latin America, and 29 percent of foreign investments in Mexico.) As befits a student of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, McLynn has a tendency to psychologize when writing about the likes of Porfirio Díaz and Francisco Madero, who, admittedly, had their issues. He captures well the infighting, personal as much as political in nature, which complicated the Mexican Revolution, as well as the international intrigues surrounding a decade of civil war. But while he gives a serviceable account of the lives of Villa and Zapata, among other revolutionary leaders, McLynn omits several important players and factions in the Revolution, makes frequent misstatements of fact (McLynn: “Like the Plains Indians of North America, the Mexican Indians never made common cause against their white rulers,” and he’s wrong about both), and offers dubious interpretations of the historical record.

All in all, an amateurish entry in a literature already dominated by outstanding professional work.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7867-0895-6

Page Count: 480

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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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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