Sort of lags after the first few hundred amputations.

THE BLUE WOLF

THE EPIC TALE OF THE LIFE OF GENGHIS KHAN AND THE EMPIRE OF THE STEPPES

Two Mongol lads become leaders of their universe in a relentlessly serious saga about Genghis Khan.

If there’s anyone left in the civilized world who has any doubt that central Asia is one of those places best left to the central Asians, let him spend several days of his effete Western life curled up with this hymn to 13th-century life on the steppe. Dripping with blood (much of it drunk, some mingled, most soaking the ground under the pounding hooves of Mongol chargers), thick with research (everyone wears a del rather than a cloak and drinks airag rather than fermented mare’s milk), and chockablock with widescreen imagery (grass, grass, grass), this is the tale of Bo’urchu, the most loyal friend an ambitious landless nomad could ask for, and Temujin, the nomad in need of such a loyal friend. Charismatic Temujin, eventually to be Genghis Khan, burns to redress the humiliation of his family; Bo’urchu pretty much wants to lead a nice life, zooming around the steppe on the best horse in the world. Having the less pressing agenda, Bo’urchu spends the rest of his days following Temujin in and around Mongolia, administering ritual humiliation, beheading, enjoying a bender now and then, raping, uniting tribes, and ultimately putting together a nation capable of going to war against the big dogs, China and the West. Temujin gets all the girls, and there are plenty. He especially gets the ones that his blood brother Bo’urchu fancies. Temujin fathers many sons, Bo’urchu doesn’t. There are rewards for loyal chums, though. There’s plenty of booty—the old fashioned kind—and lots of hunting. And, whenever there’s occasion to celebrate, everybody settles in and tears apart a nice sheep to eat, raw if necessary. Gourmands will enjoy the recipe for barbecued whole marmot, which suggests inserting a hot rock into the wee rodent. Oh, and by the way, the women love the life as much as the men. Honest.

Sort of lags after the first few hundred amputations.

Pub Date: April 8, 2003

ISBN: 0-312-30965-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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