A coherent overview for scholars of the region.




The Taliban are gone now, but will they be back? To judge by this scholarly account of Afghan politics, the chances are good that the answer is yes.

State-building in Afghanistan, Dorronsoro (Political Science/Sorbonne) suggests, is akin to stacking mercury with a pitchfork. So it has been from the first, when, in 1929, the constitutional monarchy of Afghanistan was carved out of bits of the former Persian Empire. Soon rivalries of various kinds—personal, ethnic, regional, religious and political—began to pull the country apart. The Communists came to power in the 1970s in part because the educated urban elite had abandoned some of those rivalries in favor of an ideology that put party solidarity ahead of other kinds of loyalties. But, Dorronsoro argues, the Communist Party failed to build a base outside the cities where that educated elite lived: “Radio stations throughout the country spread the new regime’s propaganda,” Dorronsoro writes, “but the unfamiliar Marxist-Leninist language fell harshly on the people’s ears.” At the same time, Islamic students began to reject the teachings of the traditional mullahs and, when civil war came, to radicalize a countryside already inclined to despise city dwellers. That war against the Marxist regime and its Soviet benefactors had many causes, Dorronsoro writes, though it was widely interpreted as mainly an ethnic conflict, “since this was the only language which the foreign powers understood without difficulty.” Following the Soviet defeat and the overthrow of the Marxists, the old rivalries began to emerge; a decade later, they would be complicated by a split between those who favored Iraq over those who favored Saudi Arabia. Enter the short-term winner in that argument, the Taliban, which “gave expression to the desire of rural people to avenge themselves on the towns” even as they alienated the nation’s minorities, yielding an unintended “ethnicization” of the conflict. The minority population is in charge now, backed by an American occupying force. But, Dorronsoro suggests, the time will come when the countryside, resistant to the more liberal cities, will rise again.

A coherent overview for scholars of the region.

Pub Date: April 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-231-13626-9

Page Count: 385

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2005

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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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