THE STRUGGLE AND THE TRIUMPH

AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY

Not a full-fledged life but, rather, the last decade or so in the on-going adventures of the portly, apple-cheeked forklift- repairman and Nobel Prize laureate who triggered the collapse of the Communist empire. Walesa opens in 1984, a year of despair: Solidarity has been outlawed; passivity rules; Poland is in the clutches of ``vulgar and dim-witted apparatchiks.'' Seven years later, Walesa would be elected president of his nation. According to Walesa, the key player during this turnabout was not himself but Pope John Paul II, under whose spiritual leadership ``Europe recovered its identity, becoming a continent of free countries.'' Emotions surge during the Pope's three visits to Poland, each ``as necessary as the sun,'' rallying a brutalized people to renew their struggle for freedom and justice. Mostly, though, we get the struggles of the Walesa clan: Lech, in and out of prison, hunting for a new house, quitting tobacco; wife Danka, ``my guiding light,'' battling the police, shooing reporters from the kitchen; six children coming of age during the rebirth of a nation. Signs of revolution are everywhere, and not the least of them are visits by world celebrities— Thatcher, Bush, Elton John—to the humble Walesa household in Gdansk to support the cause. Finally, the state edifice cracks and free elections are held in 1989. Much detail is offered about internal political squabbles that hold little interest for Americans. On the other hand, Walesa confronts squarely the problem of Polish anti-Semitism and comes off as a real mensch. Whether describing his triumphant speech to Congress, his devotion to the Virgin Mary, or his fear that his sons may emigrate to Western Europe or America, he sounds just like what he is: a working-class hero, salt-of-the earth. As satisfying as a platter of kielbasi and pierogi—and without all the fat.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1992

ISBN: 1-55970-149-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1992

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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