Nonetheless, the author offers evidence for Remarque’s basic decency—and for why All Quiet on the Western Front should be...

ERICH MARIA REMARQUE

THE LAST ROMANTIC

A welcome life of the German writer, the first in English, best known in his time and now for the classic novel All Quiet on the Western Front.

English biographer and novelist Tims never quite explains why Remarque (1898–1970) should merit renewed interest today, when almost all of his books have long since gone out of print in English translation. Still, he observes, German readers are rediscovering Remarque, who wrote plenty of frothy romances alongside his classic cri de antiguerre. “It would have given him a rueful satisfaction to know that it is in Germany that his work and reputation are nowadays held in the highest reputation,” Tims rightly observes, for Remarque was one of the first non-Jewish writers to attract the wrath of the Nazi regime; his books were banned and burned for their supposed defeatism, while Hitler’s propagandists chortled that Remarque (or “Remark,” as the writer rendered his name well into adulthood) was an anagram for Kramer. (It was not.) Driven into exile—though a luxurious one—in neighboring Switzerland, Remarque, who had bought himself a nobleman’s rank and had aristocratic leanings, did not vigorously or vocally oppose the Nazis; even so, his Aryan status having been proven to the satisfaction of the authorities, he wisely refused entreaties on the part of Hermann Goering to return to Germany and take on a job as Minister of Culture for Prussia. Instead, Remarque relocated to Hollywood, where he wrote a few scripts and earned local renown for conducting a series of affairs with the likes of Marlene Dietrich and Paulette Goddard (whom he later married). That Remarque was never a great writer is a point that Tims successfully evades, and he unwisely attributes negative reviews in the postwar German press not to the possibility that the books in question weren’t good, but to “habitual German hostility towards the world-famous author.”

Nonetheless, the author offers evidence for Remarque’s basic decency—and for why All Quiet on the Western Front should be remembered today, even if its author is not.

Pub Date: June 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7867-1155-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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