By the end, the text has abandoned its disguise as a memoir and revealed its true identity as a rather conventional campaign...

UNTIL DEATH DO US PART

MY STRUGGLE TO RECLAIM COLOMBIA

A courageous Colombian senator, member of a politically active family, charts her course through the dangerous political waters of her troubled country.

Currently running for president of Colombia, Betancourt begins in December 1996, when she had an ominous meeting with an anonymous man who warned that her life was in imminent jeopardy because her aggressive anti-corruption agenda angered the nation’s druglords and their minions. Alarmed, Betancourt hurried home, gathered up her children, and whisked them off to New Zealand to stay with their father, from whom the author separated in 1990. We return to this meeting 180 pages later. In the interim, Betancourt takes us back to her somewhat privileged childhood in France, where her father served as a UNESCO official. Her parents separated when she was 14, but Betancourt admired them both for their rigorous political and personal rectitude. In the summer of 1986, she returned to Colombia to visit her mother, who worked to better the lives of homeless children, and decided to become a legislator. First, Betancourt helped her mother win a senate campaign; soon, she received an appointment in the ministry of education. She was and is horrified by the corruption and apathy in Colombia’s government. Describing a visit to a coastal village repeatedly leveled by storms, she asks, “What kind of democracy is it that lets its people die like this without any choice?” Throughout, Betancourt employs the present tense, which creates an affecting immediacy and compelling urgency. As we follow her triumphs and travails, including a trial on trumped-up ethics charges and a fortunate escape from an assassination attempt, we feel we are alongside her. But she is not always a tolerable companion. Her righteous indignation sometimes devolves into simple self-righteousness, and repeated accounts of her own ethical purity eventually grate rather than ingratiate.

By the end, the text has abandoned its disguise as a memoir and revealed its true identity as a rather conventional campaign autobiography.

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2002

ISBN: 0-06-000890-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2001

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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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