A useful contribution to regional history and a much-needed voice in the “path of silence” that followed a murderous time.




A scholarly account of a forgotten bloodletting.

Commemorated in Peter Weir’s 1982 film The Year of Living Dangerously, the Indonesian massacres of 1965-1966 are little known outside the archipelago. Robinson (History/UCLA; "If You Leave Us Here, We Will Die": How Genocide Was Stopped in East Timor, 2009, etc.) works archives and interview sources to reconstruct what he characterizes as an “awful juggernaut of arbitrary detention, interrogation, torture, mass killing, and political exile.” Though the ruling and founding president of the republic, Sukarno, was at least nominally on the left, he was more populist than socialist. In any event, his army, led by a general named Suharto—who deposed Sukarno not long after—rose up and killed at least 500,000 suspected communists, imprisoning 1 million others, many for more than a decade. It will come as no surprise to readers that the U.S. was actively involved in the anti-communist enterprise; it is sobering, however, to realize just how close this involvement was and how guilefully American agents worked the angles. Wrote an officer at the U.S. Embassy, “Army feels it has hands full restoring order and stability without creating impression it going to massacre Communists.” It did, of course, massacre communists, burying them in mass graves. But more, old vendettas and scores were settled, ethnic and religious rivalries were exploited, and the military consolidated power while suppressing the media and other institutions. Robinson notes how this suppression played out in the hands of different army commanders. In Aceh, he writes, the army “opted to kill rather than detain alleged supporters of the [communist] movement,” while in West Java, near the capital of Jakarta, relatively few supposed rebels were killed. Only in the following decade, writes the author in conclusion, did many Westerners pay attention to the massacres, and then as a result of human rights efforts to free political prisoners who were still detained.

A useful contribution to regional history and a much-needed voice in the “path of silence” that followed a murderous time.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-691-16138-9

Page Count: 424

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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