An exile’s plainspoken testimonial, bookending Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia in the literature of political disappointment.

MAP DRAWN BY A SPY

A geography of disillusionment as limned by the noted Cuban writer (Guilty of Dancing the Chachachá, 2001, etc.), once a stalwart of the Fidelista revolution.

The men and women who trudged out of the mountains and into Havana 60-odd years ago were a tough, committed lot. Their civilian successors were just as tough; even when behind the compound walls, writes Cabrera Infante, Cuba’s ambassador to Belgium carried a heavy pistol, while his first secretary “had already killed an exiled Cuban in Santo Domingo.” Stationed in Brussels as a cultural attaché in the mid-1960s, Cabrera Infante traveled to Barcelona to collect a literary award, his movements chronicled at the order of a one-time aristocrat who, now a Fidelista, “did no work at the embassy, who never worked at all, since he had no skills or knowledge of anything.” It was a silly inquiry, since, Cabrera Infante writes, the lives of every junior officer in the embassy were transparent, and all were true believers in the cause of Cuban communism. As time wore on, Cabrera Infante’s commitment to that cause withered, for one thing because a certain moralizing conservatism crept in, such that homosexuals were persecuted and an editor friend of his was removed from his post for having invited Allen Ginsberg to Cuba, who then “scandalized the leaders of the Revolution by crowing in public that he wanted to go to bed with Che Guevara!” When he returned to Cuba and found that children could no longer have cake at their birthday parties and that domestic scotch tasted “like disinfectant,” the bloom was most definitely off the red rose. Cabrera Infante’s tone is quiet and melancholic, especially when, comparing notes with other writers such as Alejo Carpentier, he reaches a profound conclusion: “Just because the Revolution took writers in (and over) did not mean that literature wasn’t a dangerous frivolity.”

An exile’s plainspoken testimonial, bookending Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia in the literature of political disappointment.

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-914671-79-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Archipelago

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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