QUIET MOMENTS IN A WAR

THE LETTERS OF JEAN-PAUL SARTRE TO SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR, 1940-1963

A sequel to Witness to My Life (1992), which collected Sartre's letters to Simone de Beauvoir from 1926 to 1939. Most of those collected here were written in 1940, when Sartre was in the military and then in prison camp. Sartre writes, sometimes twice a day, mostly about waiting: for letters (his constant complaint), information, money, leave, action—and books, noting the absurdity of a soldier requesting Shakespeare in the battle zone: "It reeks of espionage." Many letters concern his feelings, his flirtations, and his affair with ``Tania''—a classy "slut" Sartre offers to marry even though it's "Beaver" (his pet name for Beauvoir) whom, in spite of her predilection for women, he considers his soulmate. Ten years into his creative relationship with Beauvoir, Sartre admits to being "disgusted" with himself—for his promiscuity and "obscene" sexuality—and solicits her advice. But however she inspires him, he addresses her in the common language of an adolescent crush, always in the diminutive, "little" this and "little" that, even "little paragon." It's in this period of discipline, confinement, and boredom, however, that Sartre produces his greatest works— Being and Nothingness, No Exit, and The Age of Reason—philosophy, fiction, and drama dedicated to the absurdity of life, as well as to the necessity for freedom and for making choices. The letters slow down when Sartre returns to Occupied Paris and reunites with Beauvoir, and they stop in 1963 because, as Beauvoir explains in a footnote, after that year, in order to communicate with each other, the two always used the telephone. Without Beauvoir's responses, the letters reveal the trivial and commonplace preoccupations of even the most heroic of intellects in the most trying of times.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 1993

ISBN: 0-684-19566-6

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1993

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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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