Anyone seeking to understand a complex, even bewildering part of the world will benefit from Lee’s careful account.

AFGHANISTAN

A HISTORY FROM 1260 TO THE PRESENT

A comprehensive history of a storied nation held together by an alliance of tribal and political groups that threatens to dissolve at any moment.

Afghanistan “emerged from the collapse of three great empires,” writes British historian Lee (The “Ancient Supremacy": Bukhara, Afghanistan, and the Battle for Balkh, 1731-1901, 1996, etc.), that once held sway across broad stretches of Central Asia. It has famously been the graveyard of empires since, an indomitable place that has stymied armies from Britain, Russia, and now the U.S. The modern nation is an ever shifting blend of ethnic groups and traditions and efforts at power-sharing in a political entity that Lee describes as “unstable and riddled with factionalism.” By the author’s reckoning (and many other observers’), the U.S. invasion has not helped matters; instead, it has put Afghans in the familiar if uncertain position of reading the wind to see who’s in charge. For instance, Lee calls the rout of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida a pyrrhic victory since it was replaced by the “hydra-headed movement” called the Islamic State group. Previous efforts have not been much better. As the author chronicles, Indian rulers attempted to bring Afghanistan under their rule, and following them, the British, whose earliest reports from the field noted “the sectarian and ethnic tensions at court” and who later blundered into a war that saw its army suffer its worst defeat since the American Revolutionary War. For all that, Lee adds, Afghanistan has had moments of calm, including a relatively stable period of self-rule under a monarchy that lasted, “in one expression or another,” until the communist regime that came into power in 1978. Many of Afghanistan’s true modernizers, this long but well-written chronicle documents, were royals who looked westward to places like Turkey but could not replicate such elements as a well-educated managerial and officer class and a developed intelligentsia. What remains is a country that today seems unfortunately and unjustly adrift.

Anyone seeking to understand a complex, even bewildering part of the world will benefit from Lee’s careful account.

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-78914-010-1

Page Count: 784

Publisher: Reaktion Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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