A gripping account of life in captivity and humankind’s ongoing relationship to war.

THE SHATTERED LENS

A WAR PHOTOGRAPHER'S 81 DAYS OF CAPTIVITY IN SYRIA—A STORY OF SURVIVAL

Syria’s bloody civil war swallows up an intrepid French-American photojournalist secretly struggling with his own ambivalence about the seductive nature of conflict and violence.

In 2013, at various points in his 81 days of captivity at the hands of a ragtag force bent on toppling President Bashar al-Assad, Alpeyrie alternately found himself fantasizing about fighting his kidnappers and dashing for the hills at the earliest possible opportunity. There were also those times when he longed for the chance to sit and watch Arab variety shows with his tormenters. That the author wound up on Facebook at the conclusion of his punishing ordeal, curious about the welfare of the same gunmen who terrorized him for almost three month highlights the depths of inner turmoil roiling inside the veteran photographer. It was Stockholm syndrome coupled with a journalist’s heightened ability to recognize all angles of an evolving story. Alpeyrie’s often harrowing biographical tale is split between his time in Syrian captivity and his life immediately after a hefty ransom was paid for his release. Like many who have come before him, the author’s dance with death left him yearning for even more dangerous adventures. Readers hoping for special insight into the geopolitical issues involved in the Syrian War will come away disappointed, as Alpeyrie views the ongoing carnage in the Middle East as a sort of inscrutable mess. “From a wide-angle perspective,” he writes, “this whole Syrian War struck me as a historical clusterfuck that could even help set off some global Armageddon.” What the author does offer is a chilling tale about how he managed to win the fragile esteem of his captors while simultaneously keeping his fried nerves from completely shorting out, as well as his personal take on armed conflict and global jihad.

A gripping account of life in captivity and humankind’s ongoing relationship to war.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-4650-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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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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