A hopeful, if not entirely convincing, prismatic portrait of Africa in transition, by a longtime Africa correspondent for the Independent of England. One of the seminal texts of postcolonial Africa was John Gunther's 1955 Inside Africa. He saw signs of hope everywhere, a sense that Africa might not just rival its recent European masters, but even surpass them. And then everything fell apart, in a massive paroxysm of corruption, dictatorship, and civil war. Now Maier finds cause for renewed hope. This ``second revolution'' is occurring not so much among governments and political leaders (though there have been some signal changes, such as in South Africa) as in the aspirations and actions of ordinary Africans ``armed with the values and drive of their forefathers, who are ready to tackle the challenges of the future.'' So, from Mozambique to Nigeria to Rwanda, we are introduced to men and women who are doing their little bit to improve things, from running AIDS clinics to standing against corruption to helping rehabilitate children soliders. Maier isn't as much a Pollyanna as Gunther: He is all too aware of the obstacles, from the rampant spread of AIDS to ongoing ethnic conflict to the staggering poverty. But his own reporting tends to work against his thesis. For example, his excellent analysis of Rwanda and Nigeria and their intractable problems tends to overweigh the few bright spots he's able to uncover there. Treating Africa monadically also fuels the kind of oversimplification and gross generalizations that have warped Western perceptions and treatment of so many African countries. In addition, there is a cut-and-paste quality to this book, which makes it feel more like a series of newspaper articles strung together than a coherent whole. Maier is masterful at the fast sprint of reportage, but he's simply unable to go the distance with this book.

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 1998

ISBN: 0-471-13547-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Wiley

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1997

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet