A rich, scholarly work that will attract more academic than general readers.




A critical analysis of the political and polemical essays of Chinese writer Lu Xun (1881–1936), whose literary stature remains Olympian.

Though Davies (Chinese Studies/Monash Univ.; Worrying about China: The Language of Chinese Critical Inquiry, 2009, etc.) doesn't focus closely on biographical details, numerous details about Lu Xun’s life do emerge. (Very early, we learn his favorite brand of cigarettes; later, a bit about his married life and contentious relationship with his brother.) Davies focuses on Lu Xun’s pioneering literary uses of baihua (the common language) and on his literary contributions to the revolutionary turmoil in China in the 1920s and ’30s, a turmoil that eventually forced him to publish using as many as 140 pseudonyms. The author notes that his celebrity afforded him some safety in the most perilous times. Readers will discover almost immediately that Davies’ is principally an academic work: The tone is scholarly, and literary allusions populate her prose—Foucault, Heidegger, Jung, Sartre, Derrida and many others. She employs numerous block quotations and sometimes-dense diction: “In using ambulatory tropes to anthropomorphize language Lu Xun…transfigured the act of writing into an agon of self-reflection on the road to attaining humanness.” However, the range of Davies’ research is staggering, and her erudition is impressive as she glides through Lu Xun’s literary career. She deals frankly and comprehensively with Lu Xun’s most prominent critics and notes how he handled them with intensity and agility. She has much to say, as well, about his theories of writing—how he decried political rhetoric, despised romantic fiction and saw the moral ambiguity of revolutionary writing. She also reproduces his list of eight tips for aspiring writers—among them: “Don’t force yourself to write when you feel you can’t.”

A rich, scholarly work that will attract more academic than general readers.

Pub Date: April 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-0674072640

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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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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