A fine introduction to the work of a writer who ought to have won a Nobel Prize, and who richly deserves future generations...

An informative critical biography, commissioned by the publisher, of the great Czech writer (1890–1938), whose witty allegorical and satirical fiction and drama comprise a treasure trove largely unexplored by contemporary readers.

Klíma, himself an estimable fiction writer (No Saints or Angels, 2001, etc.), expertly layers in revealing details about the introverted Capek’s unstable health and frustrating romantic life (until his eventual marriage), friendship with Czech President Tomas G. Masaryk, and “efforts to educate the nation” as a consummate journalist and public intellectual. Klíma locates the sources of Capek’s rejection of absolutism in all forms (including that of Nazism, whose worst excesses he essentially prophesied) in his admiration for the American pragmatist philosophers—while also emphasizing Capek’s distrust of both America’s “worship of technology” and the oversimplifications of communism. Klíma also offers precise readings of Capek’s famous futurist plays R.U.R.: Rossum’s Universal Robots (it was Capek who invented the word “robot”) and From the Life of the Insects (the inspiration for Russian writer Victor Pelevin’s 1998 novel, The Life of Insects); the Swiftian novel War with the Newts (1937); and the brilliant, partially autobiographical trilogy, including Hordubal (1946), Meteor (1935), and An Ordinary Life (1936). He furthermore whets readers’ appetites for new English versions of Capek’s 1925 novel, Krakatit, a probing analysis of the Faustian experience of creating, then harnessing a powerful explosive, which is his most Dostoevskyan and Lawrencian work, and the eerie philosophical play The Makropoulos Secret (also 1925), praised as one of Capek’s most successful fusions of idea and melodrama. Readers who have enjoyed recent translations of Capek’s provocatively entertaining Apocryphal Tales and Tales from Two Pockets will finish this eager to sample these and other works of Capek’s impressive (and, unfortunately, foreshortened) maturity.

A fine introduction to the work of a writer who ought to have won a Nobel Prize, and who richly deserves future generations of readers.

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-945774-53-2

Page Count: 266

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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