A readable, vigorous survey—if a touch overlong—of a piece with modern works of classical scholarship such as Roberto...




A sweeping, accessible inquiry into what the makers of classical Greek literature were thinking about.

Danish literary critic Zeruneith’s mentalités approach is a bit old-fashioned; first-generation Freudians such as E. R. Dodds and mythologians such as Jessie Weston were worrying about the ancient mind decades ago, and even such comparatively recent studies as Julian Jaynes’s The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind and Bruno Snell’s The Discovery of the Mind are 30 and more years old. Unlike many others, Zeruneith reads the original Greek sources and can make sense of etymologies; like them, though, he works from the anthropologically problematic assumption that it is possible to “read” another culture across not just space but time. The premise may be faulty—or it may not be—but the author’s view that the Greeks had the same concerns as ours and that their literature was made up of “concrete interpretations of experience” has the virtue of making, say, Euripides’ worries about reason’s slide into “the chaos of the unleashed instinctual world” more comprehensible, the tale of Prometheus as a peacemaker punished for breaking the cycle of violence that much more affecting. Zeruneith pays attention to the smaller concerns of classical scholarship: the meaning of dolos, métis and até; the structure of tragedy as trilogy; the parallel crises (in the Greek sense) that drive The Iliad. But he also works larger themes, such as the development of Greek thought from the Ionian epic to the comparatively modern works of Aristophanes and Plato—in the second of which we, to follow Zeruneith, must wonder just what those voices Socrates heard in his head were.

A readable, vigorous survey—if a touch overlong—of a piece with modern works of classical scholarship such as Roberto Calasso’s The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony (1993) and Anne Carson’s Eros the Bittersweet (1986).

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-58567-818-1

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2007

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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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