KREMLIN WIVES

If this book proves anything, it is that the Russians have as much to learn about investigative journalism as they have about running an economy. Vasilieva, the daughter of a high-placed general and herself often in the Kremlin, researched this book in part by meeting with some of the Kremlin wives, including the widows of Brezhnev and Chernenko, and was allowed ``a few brief hours'' to examine KGB files. The extracts from the latter are both new and devastating, although they serve merely to confirm once again the total speciousness of the KGB charges against the wives of Kalinin and Molotov, respectively the president and the foreign minister of the Soviet Union under Stalin, which led to their imprisonment. The greatest value of the book lies in the mere fact of providing detail about women of whom little has been known: the freewheeling Alexandra Kollontai, an advocate of free love; the tragic Nadezhda Alliluyeva, Stalin's second wife, who probably committed suicide, though Vasilieva deals usefully with the other scenarios that have been constructed about her death; Molotov's wife, Paulina Semyonovna, who with Molotov was Stalin's greatest friend, though it didn't prevent her spending five years in prison and in the camps; and many more obscure than these. But there is too much unattributed information, sheer speculation, and material that comes close to fantasy: Of Stalin's and Molotov's wives, she asks, without citing any evidence, ``Who could object if on occasion he [Stalin] sometimes slept with his wife's best friend and his best friend's wife?'' Or the statement that Lenin's letter to Stalin taking him to task for his harshness to Lenin's wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, ``cost him his life.'' And finally she gives us what one might call the ``everyone in Dnepropetrovsk'' standard, as in ``Everyone in Dnepropetrovsk knew of his [Brezhnev's] affair.'' Some stunning stuff, but one often feels that one is dealing with the ghost of Elvis.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1994

ISBN: 1-55970-260-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1994

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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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