A vivid depiction of a splintered childhood and the lovely wholeness procured from it.

THE AFRICAN

A slim yet resonant autobiographical entry from the Nobel laureate’s early years in West Africa.

Le Clézio’s (Desert, 2009, etc.) memoir of his African youth is thin in length yet rich in detail as he reconciles his experience being spontaneously relocated at 8 with his mother and brother from World War II–era Nice, France, to remote Nigeria. As the only whites in a villages of natives, he describes family life crammed into a rustic homestead with paneless windows and mosquito netting—the best the French government could provide to his father, a military doctor. Even without schooling or sports, the author’s cultural enlightenment becomes an explosion of sensations, from the sun-induced bouts of prickly heat to the naked culture’s immodest “supremacy of the body.” Le Clézio writes of liberating his pent-up frustration from being raised fatherless in dreary, wartime Europe on the African savannah, yet his father, the man he’d reunited with in 1948, emerges as the memoir’s beating heart. Restless after medical school, he’d fled Europe for a two-year medical post in Guyana and two decades in West Africa. The author paints his father as pessimistic, lonely, overly authoritative and staunchly repulsed by colonial power, yet happily married. Sadly defeated by time and circumstance, he’d become a stranger and, once relocated back to France, “an old man out of his element, exiled from his life and his passion for medicine, a survivor.” Only in his lyrically articulated hindsight does the author truly appreciate his father’s good work and a unique, memorable childhood.

A vivid depiction of a splintered childhood and the lovely wholeness procured from it.

Pub Date: April 30, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-56792-460-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Godine

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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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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