Indifferently written and burdened by invented dialogue, but notable for illustrating that the meeting of civilizations need...

COMMANDER OF THE FAITHFUL

A STORY OF TRUE JIHAD

Biography of a moderate Arab leader in an age of intransigence and empire building.

Freelance biographer and business writer Kiser (The Monks of Tibhirine: Faith, Love, and Terror in Algeria, 2002, etc.) finds a meaty subject in early-19th-century Algeria, when French soldiers invaded the country, ostensibly to deliver it from Ottoman oppressors, only to find that the Algerians rather liked the Ottomans, “whose laissez-faire habits had left the tribes in relative freedom so long as they paid their taxes.” They did not like the liberty, equality, fraternity-spreading French, whom they ambushed in mountain passes and attacked in the city streets. The intellectual author of resistance was a jihadist emir named Abd el-Kader, a marabout (“a holy man or member of a religious brotherhood”) who kept much of the French army pinned down for several years until finally being captured. El-Kader played a gentleman’s game of war, accompanied by religious pronouncements meant for anyone with ears, along the ecumenical lines of, “No one is an infidel in all the ways relating to God.” The French emperor greeted El-Kader as a worthy foe, and arrangements were made to settle him in a grand castle within sight of the Pyrenees, even if some of the locals protested that he was a “monster of the desert.” Still, a prison is a prison, and El-Kader’s many friends in France eventually agitated to have him removed to Ottoman territory, where he became a respected governor and saved thousands of Christians from being killed in religious violence in Syria. As Kiser notes, he was so widely respected that the New York Times editorialized on his death that he was “one of the few great men of the century.”

Indifferently written and burdened by invented dialogue, but notable for illustrating that the meeting of civilizations need not always produce a clash.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-9798828-3-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Monkfish

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2008

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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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