A haunting memoir and tribute to an extraordinary comrade-at-arms.

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MY FRIEND THE MERCENARY

A MEMOIR

Intensely vivid story of war and the peculiar breed of warriors who fight it in 21st-century Africa.

An award-winning filmmaker and frontline war reporter, Brabazon cut his teeth in the Liberian rainforest, marching hundreds of miles with the rebels of Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, who were seeking to overthrow the despotic Charles Taylor in February 2002. Before the author’s reports for the BBC radio, the existence of LURD was just a rumor. But for the company of a seasoned South African military man and adventurer named Nick du Toit, it might have been up to another intrepid journalist to get the scoop. The green Brabazon might not have survived even the dysentery that laid him low a few days into the journey, let alone gunfire or worse during bloody skirmishes with Taylor’s troops, if not for du Toit’s experienced hand nearby. Their bond survived the horrors of Liberia’s civil war on that trip and others, despite the author’s suspicions (and friends’ warnings) about du Toit’s history with the apartheid-era Special Forces and his new careers as arms dealer and soldier of fortune. The man the author knew seemed gentle and humane, as well as fearless. Brabazon’s respect for du Toit led him to seriously consider his invitation to film a coup he and “business partners” were plotting against another despot, Teodoro Obiango of Equatorial Guinea. Ironically, a family tragedy saved the author from his friend’s fate: capture by Obiango and horrific torture at the hands of his security forces in the notorious Black Beach prison, where Obiango had begun his career in brutality. The book opens with stomach-churning accounts of the torture that du Toit and his co-conspirators suffered, based partly on videos the torturers made. Brabazon himself was unflinching as a documentarian of war, and his prose is no less sparing, whether describing the gruesome reality of guerrilla combat or the agonizing moral quandaries of battle. The first two-thirds of the book offer as thrilling a narrative as any war novel on the shelves, and the finale is as clear a picture of the murky world of postcolonial Africa as the readers are likely to get.

A haunting memoir and tribute to an extraordinary comrade-at-arms.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8021-1975-9

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2010

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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