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Octogenarian memoirist and novelist von Rezzori (Oedipus at Stalingrad, 1994, etc.) reflects with wit and bitter irony on the physical and literary terrain of his journey through the 20th century. Born in the Bukovina (formerly part of Austria-Hungary) in 1914, von Rezzori has for the past 80-plus years lived in and spoken the languages of Austria, Romania, Germany, and Italy, where he currently resides. Although this memoir is spurred by a recent hospitalization and by the author's return to post-communist Romania and Germany, it is foremost a work of literary imagination, as the title aptly reflects. Like Scheherazade of the Thousand and One Nights, which forms the memoir's narrative framework, von Rezzori delights in the act of telling and captivates his audience. Damning the world's ``riffraffization,'' especially the hegemony of the mass media, von Rezzori draws a self-portrait of a man adrift in his own ``unreal'' times: ``A nineteenth-century man of letters on the threshold of the twenty-first.'' A brief visit with his wife to an Indian ashram provides one of many occasions for mirthful reflections on power and religion in the 20th century. Closer to home, the self-confessed curmudgeon (``My own babble bores me to tears'') treats his readers to hilarious and accurate insights, such as this comment on Cologne's Carnival: ``There I observed how hard Germans have to work to organize a bit of whimsical chaos for their own enjoyment.'' His Romania is ``a surrealist country.'' A theme woven through the narrative is von Rezzori's admiration for the late writer Bruce Chatwin, whose work he sets up as a standard he never quite attained himself, although Goethe, Musil, Nabokov, Hofmannsthal, and others, who bob in and out of his reflections, he refers to as ``colleagues.'' This cosmopolite makes no concessions to cultural illiteracy: He presupposed a reader as steeped as he is in the high culture of Central Europe. No riffraff allowed.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-374-22295-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1995

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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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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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