A useful key to understanding the role of China in the modern world, a role that is increasingly influential.

MAOISM

A GLOBAL HISTORY

Richly detailed, occasionally ponderous study of a political ideology that, while often disastrous, endures in many guises today.

Lovell (Modern China/Birkbeck Coll., Univ. of London; The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of Modern China, 2014, etc.) dissects a strain of political thought that rests on Marxism, Leninism, and Stalinism while partaking of Chinese traditions stretching back thousands of years. As she writes, Mao “assembled a practical and theoretical toolkit for turning a fractious, failing empire into a defiant global power,” one that turned a huge population to the service of a machine that was part utopian experiment and part totalitarian nightmare. Maoist thought, by Lovell’s incisive, sometimes-dry account, was a confusion of terms, propaganda, and pragmatics. As a man of rural origins, Mao held the peasantry in higher regard than the urban sophisticates who helped modernize the Chinese economy. He “acclaimed the brilliance of the (rural) masses,” holding that only their ideas were correct, then led from the top all the same, turning Marxist thought into crude, blunt messages that boiled down to class struggle and yielded calamitous famines and the nightmare of the Cultural Revolution. So how did the ideas of the Red Emperor spread as widely as they did in the West? One was his devotion, on paper if not always in reality, to feminist ideals; the Maoist formulation “women hold up half the sky” is a standard of T-shirt slogans today. Just so, Maoist political movements have long outlived their creator—Shining Path in Peru, guerrilla groups in India and Nepal, offshoots everywhere, including, to no small extent, Trumpism in America, which hinges on the same cult of personality. Even in China, which had plenty of experience with the disasters of Maoism, the ideology is, if not openly encouraged, officially tolerated. The government of Xi Jinping may have declared the Cultural Revolution “utterly wrong,” but Maoism is evident everywhere, “caught between official oppression and ambivalence, commercial kitschification and inchoate grass-roots sentiment.”

A useful key to understanding the role of China in the modern world, a role that is increasingly influential.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-65604-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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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 moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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