In aid of an obvious albeit inescapable conclusion, Keegan (Six Armies in Normandy, 1982; The Face of Battle, 1976; etc.) offers a virtuoso appreciation of military leadership down through the ages. For most of history, Keegan argues, warriors who "carry forward others to the risk of their lives" could reveal only as much of themselves as their followers required; all else had to be concealed by a mask of command. To probe this essentially, theatrical mystique, he examines the careers of four celebrated exemplars—Alexander the Great, "a supreme hero" and accomplished actor whose "being and performance merged in his person"; Wellington, whom Keegan characterizes as an anti-hero for his carefully planned, matter-of-fact approach to waging war on behalf of a constitutional monarchy; Ulysses S. Grant, whose self-consciously unheroic generalship the author judges appropriate for a popular democracy; and, by contrast, Hitler, who yearned for transcendent glory but was forced to engage in false heroics because: the destructive power of contemporary weapons barred him from running the risks required to reach the traditional ideal. While Keegan focuses on just four remarkable commanders, he does not limit himself to their exploits and the societies that empowered them. In his interpretive profile of Grant, for example, he considers the implications of the so-called gunpowder revolution (which among other results made obsolete edged-weapon warfare) and the presumptive meritocracy that obtained in Napoleon's armies. In a truncated postscript, Keegan asserts that, in light of nuclear realities, the world can no longer afford dramatic, let alone heroic, leadership. Indeed, he maintains, modern states must seek out post-heroic captains willing and able to abjure victory in their management of military power. A challenging, forceful, and timely analysis of martial governance. The text includes illustrations and maps (not seen).

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 1987

ISBN: 0140114068

Page Count: 404

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1987

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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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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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