Certain to reopen the debate on the political, diplomatic, and, most importantly, moral failure of the Catholic Church in the face of fascism and the Holocaust. Historians have long known that Pius XI—who had sought accommodation with Mussolini's regime in 1929 but later became convinced that diplomatic methods were futile with both Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy—commissioned an encyclical in June 1938 that was to have been a detailed condemnation of fascism, racism, and anti-Semitism. But Pius XI died in early 1939. His successor was Eugenio Pacelli, the late pope's secretary of state and former papal nuncio in Nazi Germany, who took the name Pius XII. Pacelli was a fanatical anti-communist, convinced that Europe would fare better under Nazi domination than Soviet hegemony. Pius XII never spoke out publicly against Nazi atrocities, not even when the Jews of Rome were rounded up by the SS. The encyclical (titled ``The Unity of the Human Race'') disappeared into the Vatican archives, never to be published. For decades, the Vatican even denied its existence, until it was discovered by a Jesuit seminarian in the late 1960s. Passelecq (a Belgian monk and former member of the anti-fascist Resistance) and historian Suchecky accurately re- create the historical context of the document and trace its fate. Of immense value to historians is the text (over 100 pages) of the encyclical, published in its entirety for the first time in English. It is an extraordinary work, combining a traditional and conservative defense of the family and the faith, along with a detailed critique of modernism and the atomization of contemporary civilization. It insists that the plurality of human ideas and beliefs does not deny an unassailable truth—the unity of the human race. Garry Wills contributes a foreword to this work, which, at a time when the Catholic Church is considering the canonization of Pius XII, may force Catholics and others to reassess his moral failure in a time of crisis.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-15-100244-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1997

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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