THE TWILIGHT OF THE INTELLECTUALS

CULTURE AND POLITICS IN THE ERA OF THE COLD WAR

An honest, unsparing, and often devastating analysis of how the intellectuals of the left—and for much of the last 70 years the term ‘intellectual’ was almost synonymous with the left—dealt with the supreme moral conflict of our times, that between communism and democracy. Kramer (The Revenge of the Philistines: Art and Culture 1972—1984, 1985), editor of the New Criterion, calls the Cold War “as much a war of ideas as it was a contest for military superiority” and writes bluntly that “many talented people in the West . . . fought on the side of the political enemy.” The evidence is presented in a series of essays written over the last 25 years, mostly dealing with individuals, of whom the Americans cause him the greatest anguish: those, for example, who condemned Whittaker Chambers, who at great personal cost revealed the part he had played in a Communist spy ring, rather than Alger Hiss, who in the face of increasingly incontrovertible evidence denied any role; the left in Hollywood, epitomized by John Huston, in Hollywood on Trial, who averred that in 1946 “Winston Churchill drew an iron curtain across Eastern Europe”; the radicals of the ’60s who likened “Amerika” to Nazi Germany; Mary McCarthy, who in Hanoi praised the “virtuous tyranny” of the regime and castigated both the American prisoners-of-war and America itself; and George Steiner, who attacked Solzhenitsyn for the “moral indecency” of implying that Soviet terror was as hideous as Hitlerism. Kramer does not, however, adduce evidence in this book for his much more far-reaching assertion that, as an intellectual tradition, liberalism is bankrupt and that it has surrendered to socialist ideology. Nor does he do much to link the decline in the fortunes of Marxism with that of modernism, his other theme. The Cold War was a war, and Kramer is scarred, but few fought it with more honor, consistency, and moral passion.

Pub Date: April 2, 1999

ISBN: 1-56663-222-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Ivan Dee/Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1999

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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