Unflinching and illuminating.



From the author of Voltaire in Exile: The Last Years, 1753–1778 (2004), a psychologically intimate biography of the great writer and philosopher.

While it’s important to recognize Voltaire (1694–1778) as symbolic of the French Enlightenment, it's also vital, writes Davidson, to understand Voltaire's motivations as an entertainer. At heart, whether the medium was fiction, poetry, polemic or history, he was a storyteller. Drawing from Voltaire's correspondence and other sources, the author's chronological narrative creates a complex, nuanced portrait of his subject and the times. From young adulthood, Voltaire resisted conformity, choosing to spite his father's demand that he go into the family law practice. His decision to pursue a literary career ultimately propelled him to immense celebrity and wealth, social advantages that allowed him to take risks in his work, which often resulted in imprisonment or exile. But Voltaire was an ardent defender of free speech and religious tolerance and was not deterred. In 1733, after spending almost three years in exile in England (where he learned to speak English), Voltaire published Lettres philosophiques (Letters concerning the English Nation), which became one of the most important and provocative pieces of the 18th century. Soon after, the French regime, insulted by Voltaire's intimations that British society was more respectful of human rights, issued another arrest warrant for Voltaire, and he was forced to flee. In the ensuing years, many of which were spent in Switzerland, Voltaire embarked on many love affairs, discovered the joys of scientific exploration, developed a relationship with Frederick the Great and continued to produce an astounding number of written works. Not until the end of his extraordinary life was he able to return to France, but he did so as a hero. Davidson’s precise language captures Voltaire in every facet, leaving the reader with renewed appreciation for his talent and humanity.

Unflinching and illuminating.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-60598-119-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

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?