An utterly compelling chronicle from a master scholar and clear writer.

MY WAR CRIMINAL

PERSONAL ENCOUNTERS WITH AN ARCHITECT OF GENOCIDE

This scrupulously researched work by a skilled interviewer of “imprisoned perpetrators” focuses on the making of the genocidal Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić.

Between 2014 and 2016, Stern (Global Studies/Boston Univ.; Denial: A Memoir of Terror, 2010, etc.) held a dozen conversations with the war criminal, now imprisoned for life in the Scheveningen Prison in The Hague. Though interviews with such high-profile war criminals had not been sanctioned by the International Criminal Tribunal—the first international war crimes court established since the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials at the end of World War II—the ICT ultimately agreed, acknowledging Stern’s meticulous methods and hoping her research might yield valuable information about Karadžić’s motives. Karadžić came to power as the former Yugoslavia’s ethnically divided federations began to declare their independence in the early 1990s, and the once-dominant Serbs of Bosnia, in the minority to the majority Bosnian Muslims, feared (or were incited to fear) that they were losing their status and privileges. The culmination of fear and hate erupted in the genocide at Srebrenica in July 1995, when the Bosnian Serb army captured the town and executed thousands of surrendered men and boys. Appearing as a cultured, intelligent “gentleman,” Karadžić created a whole other entity as an “energy healer” and poet while on the lam for 12 years, and he believed that he was a hero for his beleaguered people. Stern’s account of their interviews is a riveting battle of the wills, as the author chronicles her battle against Karadžić’s manipulation and attempts to see some remorse. Yet he was unrepentant in protecting “his” people from exaggerated threats and demographic changes, and he used fearmongering tactics that Stern recognizes as being currently practiced by the U.S. government. Ultimately, the author provides a subtle, powerful illustration of terror that resonates today, especially regarding the resurgent white supremacist movement. The deep, extensive footnotes and detailed timeline attest to Stern’s meticulous research.

An utterly compelling chronicle from a master scholar and clear writer.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-088955-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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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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