From Krall, herself born in 1937, conscience-driven reconstructions of lives that lie forever in ruins. Invaluable.




Polish-born journalist Krall (Shielding the Flame, 1986, etc.) writes true stories about real people, but does so using fiction’s methods. All of her people were in or were touched by the Holocaust.

In the title story, featured in The New Yorker’s “fiction” issues (Dec. 20 and 27, 2004), a woman, using increasingly larger pillows, pretends to be pregnant and give birth—so she can raise the baby of the pregnant Jewess she and her husband are closeting from the Nazis. “Phantom Pain” is the riveting family history of a young German baron (Axel von dem Busche) who ends up in the fighting on the eastern front—and becomes part of the assassination plot against Hitler. The rich vibrancy of Jewish life in Polish villages and towns—and the horror of its extermination—are made real all over again in the story of a man who, having survived, is drawn compulsively back to the now-empty places (“Portrait with a Bullet in the Jaw”). A man in “Only a Joke” is obsessed with the seven years of his childhood—a childhood that ended with the Warsaw Uprising. “The Back of the Eye” brings events up to the 1970s and the years of Cohn-Bendit, while in “The Dybbuk,” an American professor and survivor knows that his doomed six-year-old brother still lives inside him. “The Chair” is the pitiable tale of a group in hiding who kill the old man whose cough is going to give them away, and in “A Fox,” an aging pair of survivors live in a prewar past that has been utterly annihilated. And the utterly extraordinary “Hamlet” is the life story of the fiercely talented and troubled musician Andrzej Czajkowski, who, born in 1935, was a “hidden child,” left behind by his mother as she successfully went over to “the Aryan side.”

From Krall, herself born in 1937, conscience-driven reconstructions of lives that lie forever in ruins. Invaluable.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-59051-136-0

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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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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