Next book



A nonfictional footnote to a brilliant career in fiction.

A slim, elliptical, often poetic memoir by the late Portuguese winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The opening pages of this posthumously published memoir of early childhood by Saramago (The Elephant’s Journey, 2010, etc.) are so rapturously enthralling that they set a standard the rest of the narrative—mainly a series of anecdotes, seemingly random and arbitrary—cannot fully sustain. “Only I knew, without knowing I did, that on the illegible pages of destiny and in the blind meanderings of chance it had been written that I would one day return to Azinhaga to finish being born,” he writes of his birth in a peasant village before he moved with his family to Lisbon before his second birthday—after that he spent time alternating between the two (the writing here mainly and more lovingly portrays the country than the city). Though an early and avid reader with an eye for significant detail, his “silent, secret, solitary self” as a boy gave little hint of the literary master he would become. His mother remained illiterate throughout his life, as were the maternal grandparents to whom he so often returned. Without apparent thematic focus—other than the vagaries of memory and perhaps the ambiguities of boyhood innocence—the memoir hopscotches chronologically through his experiences with dogs, horses and crops; his schooling; his initiation into sexual arousal; and his family. He reveals that he’d initially attempted a volume with the more ambitious title, The Book of Temptations, before realizing that his reminiscences were more modest, “the small memories of when I was small.”

A nonfictional footnote to a brilliant career in fiction.

Pub Date: May 11, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-15-101508-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2011

Next book


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

Next book



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

Close Quickview