A valiant effort to explain and make peace with war’s awesome consequences for human beings.

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WHAT IT IS LIKE TO GO TO WAR

A manual for soldiers or anyone interested in what can happen to mind, body and spirit in the extreme circumstances of war.

Decorated Vietnam veteran Marlantes is also the author of a bestselling novel (Matterhorn, 2010), a Yale graduate and Rhodes scholar. His latest book reflects both his erudition and his battle-hardness, taking readers from the Temple of Mars and Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey into the hell of combat and its grisly aftermath. That Marlantes has undertaken such a project implies his acceptance of war as a permanent fact of human life. We go to war, he says, “reluctantly and sadly” to eliminate an evil, just as one must kill a mad dog, “because it is a loathsome task that a conscious person sometimes has to do.” He believes volunteers rather than conscripts make the best soldiers, and he accepts that the young, who thrill at adventure and thrive on adrenaline, should be war’s heavy lifters. But apologizing for war is certainly not one of the strengths, or even aims, of the book. Rather, Marlantes seeks to prepare warriors for the psychic wounds they may endure in the name of causes they may not fully comprehend. In doing that, he also seeks to explain to nonsoldiers (particularly policymakers who would send soldiers to war) the violence that war enacts on the whole being. Marlantes believes our modern states fail where “primitive” societies succeeded in preparing warriors for battle and healing their psychic wounds when they return. He proposes the development of rituals to practice during wartime, to solemnly pay tribute to the terrible costs of war as they are exacted, rather than expecting our soldiers to deal with them privately when they leave the service. He believes these rituals, in absolving warriors of the guilt they will and probably should feel for being expected to violate all of the sacred rules of civilization, could help slow the epidemic of post-traumatic stress disorder among veterans.

A valiant effort to explain and make peace with war’s awesome consequences for human beings.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8021-1992-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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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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