Scholarly but accessible and of much interest to those with an eye on geopolitical matters.



Sober-minded history of a nation that has existed in its present form for less than a century, one “predestined to descend into chaos and civil war.”

What is Syria? Like so many political entities in the Middle East, it is the product of lines on colonial maps drawn according to the tenets of division and conquest. However, warns London-based Arabist and attorney McHugo (A Concise History of the Arabs, 2013), it would be a mistake to think that simply redrawing the map could redress that country’s terrible problems, one of them being the fact that some 40 percent of the population has been displaced to some degree or another in the last three years of civil war. Repartitioning the country, he warns, carries numerous drawbacks: “This is an outbreak of the old Western disease of drawing pretty lines on maps and then expecting the peoples of Greater Syria to step neatly into the zones marked with the particular color chosen for them.” Those colors are widely varied, for Syria contains numerous kinds of people: Christians and Muslims in various strains, Jews and Zoroastrians, Kurds and Palestinians, and many more. McHugo charts the slowly building tragedy that has set these peoples far apart, beginning when the country’s first ruler “recognized no distinctions between the three monotheistic religions, and that all were equal and entitled to the same rights and subject to the same duties.” Sadly, that ecumenical view disappeared with the rise of Ba’ath party nationalism, which blended elements of Arab revanchism and Western socialism in an uneasy alliance that would yield the likes of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Bashar al-Assad in Syria, both of which played proxy roles in the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union and continue to play roles in the struggle between the West and Russia today.

Scholarly but accessible and of much interest to those with an eye on geopolitical matters.

Pub Date: March 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62097-045-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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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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