THE LAST APOCALYPSE

EUROPE AT THE YEAR 1000 A.D.

In this lively, absorbing “saga” of Europe (which, the author makes clear, is as much imaginative re-creation as history) at the end of the last millennium, Reston (Galileo, 1994, etc.) depicts a turbulent Europe as expectant of an imminent apocalypse as are today’s doomsayers. In his 11th book, Reston paints end-of-millennium Europe as a benighted, besieged place—in 950 a.d. it seemed to many as if pagan and Muslim enemies of Christendom were on the brink of conquering the Christian kingdoms, while the Church was undermined by pervasive corruption and internecine conflict. Yet by the year 1000 the Church was ascendant everywhere, having converted the savage Norse and Magyar chiefs and helped to check the Muslim advance into the Iberian peninsula. Reston explains how this transformation occurred, bringing vibrantly alive the dominant personalities of the period, among them King Olaf Trygvesson of Norway, whose conversion to Christianity marked the beginning of the end of the ravages of the Norsemen; Gerbert of Aurillac, the brilliant intellectual man of action who helped Hugh Capet assume the throne of France and who, as Pope Sylvester II, led a revitalizing reform of Western Christianity; and the Magyar Vajk, ruler of the terrible horsemen who had terrorized Central Europe, who converted and became King Stephen of Hungary. Reston vividly evokes significant battles, including the heroic stand of the English against the Vikings at Maldon and the destruction of the Viking fleet by the Greeks on the Black Sea. He also convincingly argues that it was the conversion of pagan rulers to Christianity that truly made possible the transformation of the embattled kingdoms of 10th-century Europe into the familiar “Christendom” of history. Ultimately, Reston shows, the period was in fact a kind of apocalypse: As a result of all this turbulent activity, the old world died and a new one arose in its place. A thoughtful, briskly told narrative that makes the period come alive. (32 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: March 2, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-48326-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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