An important document in the history of the apartheid era.




A harrowing descent into the hell of apartheid via documents the regime neglected to destroy.

One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter, and such people are made, not born. In the case of South Africa, writes Princeton history professor Dlamini, a native of a township near Johannesburg, the apartheid regime created many through its campaign of repression and separation. The rolls were extensive, the archives vast, and when the regime collapsed, the documentation was deleted in a “memory purge…so extensive that some commentators have called it a ‘paper Auschwitz.’ ” Officials with whom Dlamini spoke lamented that the paperwork was not hidden in a friendly nation such as Taiwan or Israel, if only because it could be used to prove who was a self-proclaimed freedom fighter and who wasn’t. As it is, in a project reminiscent in some ways of Michael Lesy’s Wisconsin Death Trip, Dlamini closely examines the surviving documents, including a dossier informally called, yes, the “Terrorist Album.” Begun in the early 1960s, it records the names and images of thousands of people who left South Africa because of their opposition to the government. “If the album has much value as a historical source,” writes the author, “it is because it allows us to look at each mug shot and, by investigating that image, find the specific account of how this or that person fled into exile and, by doing so, came to be in the album.” Some of the people depicted there did commit acts of political violence, but Dlamini turns up trouble with the discovery that the asterisk alongside many names signifies that the person in question was no longer of state interest. The album and the author’s account of it are charged with meaning, but perhaps the greatest takeaway is his observation that no matter how a government tries to obliterate the past, it can never do so completely.

An important document in the history of the apartheid era. (24 photos)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-91655-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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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

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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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