Literate and lucid—sure to interest to readers of Fukuyama, Huntington, and similar authors as well as students of modern...



Americans are “serial amnesiacs” who have forgotten the hardest of hard times—which will serve us poorly when the hard times return.

The ancient Greeks made the dramatic form of tragedy central to their cultural expression, write Brands (Global Affairs/Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies; American Grand Strategy in the Age of Trump, 2018, etc.) and Edel (United States Studies Centre, Univ. of Sydney; Nation Builder: John Quincy Adams and the Grand Strategy of the Republic, 2014, etc.), as both admonition and inspiration. “An understanding of tragedy,” they note, “remains indispensable—as it always has been—to the conduct of statecraft and the preservation of world order.” One central facet of tragedy is that hubris will get a person in trouble; another is that it’s never correct to assume you’re in control of any situation. Given receding memories of the Cold War and the world wars, many ordinary Americans and policymakers alike have lost the awareness that, in the authors’ view, the story of international relations over the centuries “has been one of recurring geopolitical cataclysms in which peace is ruptured, nations are shattered, countless lives are lost or disrupted, and golden eras come crashing to an end.” It’s the stuff of Aeschylus and Thucydides but also of the current headlines, in which the American assumption that democracies are allies and autocracies and authoritarian states suspect is giving way to global illiberalism and the competing geopolitical demands of states such as Russia and China. A properly formed tragic sense, the authors hold, instructs that rivalries between great powers can easily lead to war between them, “a prospect that seemed to have followed the Soviet empire onto the ash heap of history.” Other aspects of the tragic sense include recognizing the need for personal sacrifice and communal action and seeing clearly the world for what it is, “especially when the outlook is ominous.”

Literate and lucid—sure to interest to readers of Fukuyama, Huntington, and similar authors as well as students of modern realpolitik.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-300-23824-2

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?


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

Did you like this book?