More a nicely assembled collection of anecdotes than a sustained narrative.

THE GREAT ESCAPE

NINE HUNGARIANS WHO FLED HITLER AND CHANGED THE WORLD

Andre Kertesz and Robert Capa blew up photographs. Edward Teller and Leo Szilard blew up atoms. They were Hungarian. They were Jews. It must have been something in the water.

Herself the child of Hungarian Jewish immigrants, Marton (A Death in Jerusalem, 1994) offers a competently written treatise that is light on theory but long on description. Is it anything more than an accident that Arthur Koestler, Michael Curtiz, John von Neumann and other of her case studies were born in Budapest? No, but there was definitely something astir culturally and intellectually at the end of the Habsburg era, and, as Marton notes, more than a dozen Nobel Prize–winners came from that place in that generation, and it is clear that the Hungarian capital was a Central European rejoinder to Athens and Florence. Then came the likes of Admiral Horthy and a homegrown fascist regime, even before the time of Hitler and Eichmann, and that gifted generation scattered, with a disproportionate number going to the U.S. (Koestler pointedly went to England, Marton notes, because he felt that the U.S. was too far removed from the humanist tradition.) Their arrival occasions purplish enthusiasm on Marton’s part, as here: “What did the young man late from Budapest’s noisy boulevards make of the soft pink avenues of Beverly Hills, or Santa Monica’s stretch of pale sand?” She is on to something more useful when she remarks that her nine subjects were double and perhaps even triple outsiders, since they were Jews in a “small, linguistically impenetrable, landlocked country”—and, moreover, nonobservant Jews whose families were generally assimilated, to say nothing of being geniuses in an ordinary world. Whatever the case, Hungary’s loss was surely the gain of several disciplines: photography, filmmaking, literature, journalism, economics and, of course, nuclear physics.

More a nicely assembled collection of anecdotes than a sustained narrative.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-7432-6115-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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...

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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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