Haunting and powerful evocation of a world Hitler despised.



One of the greatest newspaper correspondents during the golden age of German journalism brilliantly illuminates the inexorable, deepening chaos that prefaced WWII.

Driven to do more than just report, Roth (1894–1939) aspired to define his time, including its calamitous echoes of the First War: “We were outfitted for life,” he writes of his generation, “only for death to greet us. We were the unhappy grandsons who put their grandfathers on their laps to tell them stories.” Forever struggling with alcoholism, Roth felt like a prisoner in his own country and departed for Paris in 1925. For him, “Berlin represents power, rigidity, scale, and threat,” notes Hofmann, who won the PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club prize for his translation of Roth’s novel The Tale of the 1,002nd Night (1998). “France is suppleness, beauty, humanity and promise.” But the essays here, mainly from Paris, Lyon, and the Midi, do not voice a simple adoration. Roth combines keen observations of people—socialist dockworkers at breakfast, prostitutes at leisure, an old man with lifeless eyes seen through a window in an empty room—with an acute sense of how history and environment constitute social engineering. He is intrigued, for example, when the town of Nîmes erects a public cinema screen inside the ruins of its Roman arena, into which the entire medieval population had moved to sit out a few centuries of the Dark Ages. His prose is fluid, often languidly evocative, but then he will suddenly snap lulled readers to attention with bolts of original logic and clarity. Despite his denial of sentimentality, Roth is openly seduced, for example, by “the rattling of the steel shutters coming down in front of the shops [as] for an hour people prepare for the magnificent, lofty festival that in the white cities of the south of France goes by the name ‘lunch.’ ”

Haunting and powerful evocation of a world Hitler despised.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-393-05145-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2003

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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

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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