Graphic sketches of a life long gone, rendered with a sharp eye and an even sharper tongue. (9 b&w photos)

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THE WANDERING JEWS

The first English translation of five eloquent essays on the plight of the European Jews by Austrian author Roth (1894–1939).

Roth, many of whose magnificent novels and other works are now available in English (Rebellion, 1999, etc.), first published this collection in 1927, then again in 1937 with a devastating and prescient new preface (included in this edition, oddly, at the end). In it, he describes his visits to the Jewish communities of five extremely different locales: a remote Galician shtetl (which the translator reveals was Roth’s own birthplace); the ghettoes of Vienna, Berlin, and Paris; and the Soviet Union (whose government he finds somewhat appealing). In one of his least perceptive sentences, Roth declares that “while anti-Semitism has become a subject for study in the West, . . . in the new Russia, it remains a disgrace.” One section deals with Jewish emigration to America (where “consulates want to see more papers than any consulate on earth”) and offers the stunning image of a quarantined Jew looking “through the bars of his prison [at] the Statue of Liberty.” Roth has enormous respect and an almost romantic fondness for the rural Jews of Eastern Europe, the people who remain close to the old ways and have not committed the error of assimilation. “There is no other people,” he claims, “that lives on such a footing with their god.” At the shtetl he has a quick visit with a wonder-rabbi (whose powers Roth celebrates), and he describes a rural Yom Kippur, a funeral, and an eight-day wedding celebration (though he, a visitor, was not admitted). Most poignant are his comments about ghetto life. In Vienna, for example, the “two career alternatives are peddler and installment seller.” Interestingly, Roth was not a Zionist—he feared and despised all varieties of nationalism, especially in what he called “the deadly antiseptic boredom” of the West.

Graphic sketches of a life long gone, rendered with a sharp eye and an even sharper tongue. (9 b&w photos)

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2000

ISBN: 0-393-04901-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2000

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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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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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