A memoir of life in Stalin's Soviet Union in the 1930s that tells us more of how the system worked—and how shrewd workers outwitted it—than a dozen monographs. Sentenced in 1927 to ten years in the Gulag for ``counter-revolutionary activities,'' Andreev-Khomiakov, a staffer at a provincial newspaper and a writer of short stories, was released two years early, in 1935, but forbidden to stay in 41 cities or within 200 kilometers of the Soviet border. He was fortunate enough to land in the forest industry, in charge of planning for one Neposedov, a man of splendid enthusiasms and a manipulative cunning that enabled him to sidestep much of the prescribed constipation of the Soviet system. It was impossible to attain the goals demanded of the system honestly, and Andreev captures the shifts and evasions, the bribery and falsification required actually to do the job, otherwise described by the authorities as ``manifesting a healthy initiative.'' And he describes, too, the delight of the workers when, Neposedov having obtained appropriate machinery by arcane strategems, they actually could do their work and be paid a fair wage for it. Soon the factory is exceeding its production targets by 30 percent and more. It can't last, of course, and in 1938 they are notified by the Peoples' Commissariat of Forestry that it will cease delivering timber. Neposedov tries everything, but it is the end. The whole process has ruined the forests and the lives of those working in the industry, despite, Andreev remarks, `` `all-hands efforts,' `all-out offensives,' `mobilizations,' `mechanization,' and of course . . . sacrificing millions of people.'' The final irony comes with the outbreak of WW II, when Andreev joins with his coworkers at the head office in Moscow in throwing out into the courtyard the thousands of files carefully itemizing every detail of the grand design. Andreev's humor, vitality, and mordant observations illuminate what might, in lesser hands, be a depressing chronicle.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8133-2390-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1997


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



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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