A beguiling, thoughtful book about a place that few people know well but that seems eminently inviting in the author’s hands.

A LINE IN THE RIVER

KHARTOUM, CITY OF MEMORY

A native son returns to Khartoum, a tumultuous city in a rapidly changing region.

Mahjoub (Nubian Indigo, 2006, etc.), the author of a detective series under the pen name Parker Bilal, fled Sudan with his family in 1989, when a military coup installed an Islamist regime. Twenty years later, having lost contact with many of his friends and family members, he returned to his homeland with pointed questions: “Who was I without this place that I had written about for so long?” Though now something of an outsider, he delivers a book of impressions and experiences that, though a touch overlong, stands up well next to books of similar spirit by Eric Newby and Jan Morris. A highlight comes when Mahjoub returns to his boyhood home, which might have commanded a small fortune in the Sudan of a boom that quickly ended with the splitting off of South Sudan in 2011: “In the wake of secession,” he writes, “the capital is sinking once more into lethargy,” and if the house is now but rubble, it evokes Proustian memories of hours sprawled on couches and chairs absorbing book after book in a household that valued writing and learning. Though his impressions are sometimes glancing, Mahjoub writes powerfully of personal history and the history of the larger city and nation alike. As he notes, he is wary of the category “exile,” although indeed his parents were forced to leave Khartoum on pain of death and were never quite at home in Cairo, where the family ended up. Still, he writes affectingly, when he lived in Khartoum, he knew where he was and had some sense of meaning and being, whereas “from the moment I left, it seems to me, I have been explaining myself, one way or another.”

A beguiling, thoughtful book about a place that few people know well but that seems eminently inviting in the author’s hands.

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4088-8546-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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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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