The sensational careers of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos are set in the context of Philippine culture and political history. Hamilton-Paterson (Tragic Mountain: The Hmong, the Americans, and the Secret War for Laos, 1942—1992, 1993, etc.) has, unlike many other commentators, elected to try to understand rather than merely condemn the Marcoses for their egregious behavior during their 21-year reign in the Philippines. He certainly denounces the Philippine First Family for a plethora of crudities and crimes—e.g., Ferdinand fabricated his heroic military record in WWII and won elections so tainted that virtually no one believed the results; Imelda made of shopping an aerobic workout and kept on the palace grounds cases of the sandwich spread she’d craved as a child. But Hamilton-Paterson, a long-time resident of the Philippines and wise observer of the local mores, demonstrates convincingly that for much of their tenure the Marcoses enjoyed public favor; they helped elevate their nation economically and technologically. And with devastating clarity, he shows how the US government, which coddled and encouraged Marcos (in 1966 he addressed—and dazzled—a joint session of Congress), abandoned him only when the Vietnam War was over, only when we no longer had such an acute strategic need for his support, only when the media had turned against him. Throughout this illuminating book, Hamilton-Paterson periodically pauses to focus on a small, remote Philippine forest village (imaginary) he calls Kansulay. These lovely and lyrical sections—all in the present tense—reveal that not far from sprawling, madding Manila the old Philippine ways continue; we see that the Marcoses were representative of their class, rather than anomalous. A small problem: too often, Hamilton-Paterson, in a curious narrative decision, elects to block the graceful flow of his prose with cofferdams of quotations, some quite lengthy, from writers with little to add. A fascinating portrait of two extraordinary people, of a culture, of a country—a refreshing reminder of the powerful presence of ambiguity in human beings and in human affairs. (3 maps)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-6118-5

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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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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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...


A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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