Historical fragments and extensive research, combined to form a captivating mosaic.




A lively history of the legendary ancient city, from creation to destruction.

First envisioned by Alexander the Great, Alexandria rose on the shores of the Mediterranean over several decades and remained a seat of power for centuries. Although its Pharos lighthouse was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the city is best known for its library, the embodiment of the intellectual power concentrated in the region. This aspect of Alexandria provides a foundation for British documentary filmmakers Pollard and Reid on which to construct their story. The authors cover much ground, mixing narrative with fragments from historical texts to illustrate certain points. This is not a light read, encompassing as it does many disciplines—philosophy, mathematics, science, religion, politics. However, a tremendous amount of behind-the-scenes skullduggery keeps this work lively. Pollard and Reid balance some of the drier history with juicy stories of revenge, jealousy and egos run wild among a cast of characters constituting a Who’s Who of history. The authors emphasize each individual’s connection to the city and his or her contribution to the collective body of knowledge. For example, we learn that around 235 b.c., Eratosthenes, with the help of a stick, the sun and a long walk, proved that the Earth was a sphere; his estimate on its circumference was off by less than one percent. Alexandria was a magnet for advanced thought, and over time that quality came to be perceived as a threat. In 48 b.c., Julius Caesar’s impulsive (or deliberate) torching of the library destroyed a vast archive of knowledge accumulated over generations. Muslim general Amr completed the job in a.d. 646, when he demolished the city entirely.

Historical fragments and extensive research, combined to form a captivating mosaic.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2006

ISBN: 0-670-03797-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2006

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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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