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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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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