An impassioned, carefully executed work of research.

GREAT SOUL

MAHATMA GANDHI AND HIS STRUGGLE WITH INDIA

A thorough sifting of the often contradictory life pursuit of Gandhi (1869–1948), from South African barrister to the Mahatma.

Pulitzer Prize–winning former New York Times correspondent and editor Lelyveld (Omaha Blues: A Memory Loop, 2005, etc.) tackles the paradoxes inherent in Gandhi’s philosophy of satyagraha, or “firmness in truth”—his version of passive resistance in the face of social injustice, which he honed from his first journalistic writings in South Africa to his epic final demonstrations for Hindu-Muslim harmony shortly before his assassination. The author painstakingly examines the primary sources in Gandhi’s life to provide a rich, multilayered portrait of the evolution of his thought and action—no easy feat, since the Mahatma’s philosophy changed constantly, especially in the early days in South Africa, which served for two decades as his “laboratory” in which to test his ideas of civil disobedience, chastity, communal living, vegetarianism and winning rights for minorities, especially the untouchables. The last months of his stay in South Africa proved crucial, as he put himself on the line for the “coolies” he had heretofore defended in print by organizing a collective strike of indentured servants in Natal. This unleashed “a collective spasm of resentment and hope” that he took back to India in his larger crusade against the strictures of the caste system. Although he claimed always to believe in the equality of all men, Gandhi did not make the leap in the early South African struggle between the plight of the blacks (the “kaffir”) and the Indian untouchables, and only later took up the cause of the minority Muslims (for which he was killed). “To say that Gandhi wasn’t absolutely consistent isn’t to convict him of hypocrisy,” writes Lelyveld. “It’s to acknowledge that he was a political leader preoccupied with the task of building a nation, or sometimes just holding it together.” The author delves deeply into the episodes that tested, and tightened, his convictions along the way: challenging the concept of “pollution” by infiltrating the Vaikom temple in a mass demonstration in 1924; his determination to “fast unto death” to ensure untouchable representation in Congress; eight years practicing what he preached at the Wardha ashram.

An impassioned, carefully executed work of research.

Pub Date: March 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-26958-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2011

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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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