In a group of atmospheric essays written over a 40-year span, the eminent historian (The End of the Twentieth Century, 1992, etc.) reflects eloquently on his ``brushes with history'' in Europe and America. Lukacs, a native Hungarian who settled in Philadelphia in 1946, here travels across continents and decades. In pieces dating from 1954 through 1993 (some of which originally ran in the New Yorker, the New Republic, and other magazines) the author tours and reflects on Venice, Philadelphia, London, Warsaw, Budapest, and other cities. In an essay from 1965, he attends Winston Churchill's funeral and affectionately considers Churchill's life and the British Empire, both finished; in ``Cook's Continental Timetable'' (1978) he makes reading a railroad schedule seem like a romantic adventure. Lukacs often evokes the unmodern beauties of Eastern Europe, comparing them with the very different qualities of the West. In ``Easter in Warsaw'' (1981) a trip to Poland unfolds as a spiritual pilgrimage to another world, while in ``A Night at the Dresden Opera'' (1986) Lukacs contrasts the rococo aesthetics of the opera house, emblematic of the glories of a bygone Germany, with the drabness of the GDR. In ``Philadelphia'' (1958) Lukacs meditates on how the different personalities of William Penn and Benjamin Franklin shaped his adopted city and nation: ``One was the contemplative humanitarian; the other, the utilitarian eager- beaver.'' In ``Back and Forth from Home'' (1990) this chronicler of the past tells of his worries about the future: Both as an ÇmigrÇ hopeful for newly liberated Hungary and as a member of the Schuykill Township Planning Commission responsible for protecting the local environment, he calls for ``the preservation of a countryside, of a landscape, of a way of life, of a country.'' Potent, absorbing reflections on past and present.

Pub Date: June 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-8262-0956-4

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Univ. of Missouri

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1994

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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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