An ambitious but labored joint political biography of China's late-20th-century rulers, Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, that overreaches in its attempt to parallel, contrast, and interweave their paths to power. Veteran China-watcher Salisbury (The Great Black Fire, 1989, etc.) writes an exhaustively detailed anecdotal narrative without ever getting under the skin of either Mao or Deng. Though he tells us that both men grew up in the Chinese back-country, came from well-to-do families, and received above-average educations, Salisbury never makes important or clear enough the psychological differences that made Mao into a sexually promiscuous, egomaniacal addict (sleeping-pills) and Deng into a shrewd, resilient, but tempered bureaucrat. The author is better at demonstrating how Deng's stubborn independence and sheer bad luck delayed his emergence as Mao's handpicked successor. As early as 1932, Deng suffered his first censure from the Communist Party for leading a ``rich peasant life.'' Later, during the Cultural Revolution, he was shipped off to a menial industrial job for bucking Mao's ``cult of personality,'' and was readmitted to power only when, in 1971, Mao himself deemed it prudent to groom someone he essentially controlled to be the next ``emperor.'' Salisbury astutely notes that Deng's infinitely more modest self-image, personal tastes, and political flexibility (at least up until Tiananmen Square) are the deeply felt lessons of his own political victimization, lessons Mao taught but ironically never learned. The book's most brilliant drama comes in Salisbury's re-creation of Nixon's 1972 visit. Feigning good health and hiding political atrocities at home, Mao double-talked Nixon silly while the duplicitous Jiang Qing escorted the Nixons to a night at the opera. Compelling if overwrought, but a must for Sinologists. (Forty- five b&w photographs, two maps—not seen.)

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 1992

ISBN: 0-316-80910-1

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1991


If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


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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