This brief memoir of the Spanish Civil War by an American who volunteered with the International Brigade builds up steam slowly but does eventually become quite gripping. Rubin takes a full third of the book just to describe how difficult it was to get to Spain in 1937 and then devotes additional space to an unsurprising description of his basic training. Following that, though, he offers a detailed look at a war-ravaged country as he describes his journey through separatist Catalonia to join republican positions closer to Madrid. In repeatedly evoking the political climate of the times, stressing the effect of the world's reluctance to act to save Spain from fascist dictatorship, Rubin spares neither his own country nor the Vatican. Initially part of a combat unit, Rubin contracted hepatitis as a result of repeated bouts of dysentery (a subject that, along with his finally remedied virginity, Rubin is perhaps too frank about) and was sent to an army hospital, where he eventually stayed on as a medic (despite the fact that he hadn't had a chance to complete his pre-med studies back home), witnessing firsthand the awful residue of battle. Among the most moving scenes is his unvarnished description of how he helped a mortally wounded soldier in terrible pain to die by injecting air into a vein. In the book's brief epilogue, Rubin discusses the prejudices he encountered when he returned to America following the collapse of the Republic and how, despite his almost immediate return to combat in WW II, suspicions about his loyalty shadowed him. Many saw the republican cause as identical with communism, which oversimplifies the war to the point of absurdity. Rubin has not rewritten Hemingway's or Orwell's masterpieces on the Spanish Civil War, but his contribution is moving, angry, and deeply convincing. (5 b&w illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8093-2159-9

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Southern Illinois Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1997

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?