Dazzling as a kaleidoscope: an artful tumbling and knocking that throws light and reveals strange depths.

MY INVENTED COUNTRY

A NOSTALGIC JOURNEY THROUGH CHILE

“I can't be objective where Chile is concerned,” writes novelist Allende (City of the Beasts, 2002, etc.) in this evocative and, yes, highly personal, social geography cum memoir.

Allende describes her tour of her homeland as “a series of reflections, which always are selective and tinted,” and readers wouldn't want it any other way. She starts with her childhood, which “wasn't a happy one, but it was interesting,” then proceeds by caroms, letting memory lead the text this way and that. She explores the country’s physiography: the inhospitable north, where flamingoes are “brush strokes of pink among salt crystals glittering like precious stones”; the central valley's apples and grapes; Santiago, with “the pretensions of a large city but the soul of a village”; or the volcanic southern zone, with its wind and rain. Yet this is primarily a social and personal journey. Allende writes about her family's history, about her experiences with the politesse that hides the unbreachable class system, and about the poor, who are “well educated, informed, and aware of their rights.” The nation’s sobriety is matched by its violence: “experience has taught us that when we lose control we are capable of the worst barbarism.” Many believe in the supernatural, and the Catholic Church’s influence is pervasive. Women, with their “blend of strength and flirtatiousness that few men can resist,” are also “abettors of machismo: they bring up their daughters to serve and their sons to be served.” Allende shows us organ grinders, gypsies, and hot bread. She makes connections with her books. “Each country has its customs, its manias, its complexes,” she writes. “I know the idiosyncrasies of mine like the palm of my hand”—and there lies her nostalgia. The musicality in Allende's voice bevels all but the melancholy, especially the sad day in 1973 when the CIA orchestrated a coup against her uncle, Salvador Allende.

Dazzling as a kaleidoscope: an artful tumbling and knocking that throws light and reveals strange depths.

Pub Date: June 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-06-054564-X

Page Count: 224

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 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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