An adventure in history packed with details—some intimate, some surprising, some shocking, and all convergent into an...




An international bestseller, this epic work follows the flow of time through European locales almost as a geologist follows a riverbed.

Dutch journalist Mak (Amsterdam, 2000, etc.) walks the streets—from Paris, London, Berlin and Rome to Stalingrad, Srebenica and Sarajevo—haunting the libraries and reading rooms, looking into faces that reveal like maps the traces of what has gone by. He is simultaneously a tourist, detective and storyteller: The broad, beautiful boulevards and arterials of Paris or Vienna, for example, were not planned primarily on the basis of aesthetics, he reminds us; their purpose was to move an army speedily to any site of riot or rebellion. Out of such stories flows a compelling vision of a fractured, segmented, yet terminally conjoined Europe, where socialized humanity strives on as its leaders continually fail. At one of Europe’s bloodiest World War I battlefields, Ypres, where half of Corporal Adolf Hitler’s unit was wiped out as the allies checked Germany’s advance for good, Mak simply wonders out loud why there couldn’t have been one more marker among those in the “H” section of the expansive German graveyard. He neatly fits crucial information into such contexts with sometimes disarming familiarity. For example, Mak points to the desperate pleas for restraint exchanged between Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm and Czar Nicholas of Russia during the panic preceding the First War; signed “Cousin Willy” and “Cousin Nicky,” the letters reflect the helplessness of an interrelated royalty in the clutch of larger forces. The Hapsburgs vaporized, leaving behind century-defying animosities that Mak reminds us flamed up again in World War II and even into the 1990s in Bosnia. The gap between have-not Eastern Europe and the haves in the West continues to widen, he warns.

An adventure in history packed with details—some intimate, some surprising, some shocking, and all convergent into an essential, coherent story of modern Europe.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-375-42495-3

Page Count: 896

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2007

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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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