MY CRAZY CENTURY

A fitting capstone to a distinguished literary life and an exposition of one of the main flaws of communism—that “the...

From the Nazi concentration camps to the communist show trials, Klíma (No Saints or Angels, 2001, etc.) shines a vibrant light on the machinery of oppression and the struggles of artists and intellectuals to subvert government control.

For decades, the author was one of Czechoslovakia’s most prolific and influential writers of samizdat, but he has never told his own story in such detail. After miraculously surviving Theresienstadt, he enthusiastically joined the Communist Party (“It was as if the walls of the fortress where I had been forced to spend part of my childhood had hindered me from seeing the world in its true colors”) and decided to pursue writing. The travails of his father, an engineer prosecuted for running a factory that failed to meet its production quota, and the growing sense of paranoia in the literary and publishing communities in which he was beginning to establish himself gradually opened his eyes to the futility of communism, “a nefarious confederacy that in the name of grand objectives stole the property of society and destroyed what it had taken generations to create.” More than a memoir, the book is the intellectual history of a city and a memorial to its inhabitants, who, laboring underground, kept the idea of democracy alive after the Prague Spring. Encompassing all the major journals, movements and personalities who shaped Prague’s cultural and artistic life in the latter half of the 20th century, the author also touches on some of the themes—tension with Slovakia, postwar depopulation and stagnation of the countryside, the ongoing struggle to integrate gypsies and other minorities—that continue to shape the Czech Republic’s identity.

A fitting capstone to a distinguished literary life and an exposition of one of the main flaws of communism—that “the betrayal of intelligence leads to the barbarization of everyone.”

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2170-7

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2013

NIGHT

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

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

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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