An intriguing spy biography that ably demonstrates how fierce adherence to an ideology can lead to human suffering on terms...

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THE DANGEROUS OTTO KATZ

THE MANY LIVES OF A SOVIET SPY

A talented and seductive spy pops up in places as diverse as Hollywood, Prague, Paris and Mexico City, organizing anti-Nazi, pro-Communist propaganda before dangling at the end of a hangman’s noose in 1952.

Miles (The Wreck of the Medusa: The Most Famous Sea Disaster of the Nineteenth Century, 2007, etc.) presents a complicated tale of espionage, human cruelty, war and retribution. The author begins in 1952 when Noël Coward, one of Katz’s numerous celebrity acquaintances, discovered that Katz, having outlived his usefulness, was on trial for treason in Prague. After dealing swiftly with this classic Communist-era show trial, Miles returns to 1895 and the birth of the Jewish Katz in southern Bohemia. The author digs up what he can (not much) on Katz’s boyhood and education, showing how he fell in love with socialism in his mid-teens, got caught up in Prague’s theater and art world, met Kafka and began to come of age. A handsome, slick operator, he was soon at work in publications and propaganda. Along the way he associated with some of the era’s most notable writers, artists and actors, including Dietrich, Koestler, Dos Passos, Hemingway and many others. Security services in France, England and the United States were watching him, though never very efficiently. His multiple aliases, smooth demeanor and celebrity connections seemed to shield him from surveillance. Miles properly credits him for exposing the cruelties of the Nazis, and he also charts Katz’s growing discomfort with the brutalities of Stalin—though he stayed ever loyal to the Communist Party. The author also suggests that the Kennedy assassination was a conspiracy and that Britain’s MI5 comprised a collection of bungling boobs.

An intriguing spy biography that ably demonstrates how fierce adherence to an ideology can lead to human suffering on terms both intimate and global.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59691-661-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2010

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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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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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