The authors know their Egyptology, and in them Champollion has found worthy champions. Their highly readable account will be...




A taut story of 19th-century scholarly research by husband-and-wife archaeologists, with lashes of intrigue and scandal thrown in for good measure.

If, as some historians have suggested, Napoleon conquered Egypt in order to liken himself to Caesar and thus circle the wagons of history, his erstwhile subject Jean François Champollion took it on for quite another purpose: he wanted to “investigate the creation of the world and the beginning of time itself.” Grand though his ambition was, Champollion was no Indiana Jones. A sickly and frail child, he showed an unusual ability to learn languages from the ground up, mastering Greek and Latin by the time he was 12 and learning many other ancient and modern tongues (although he never quite grasped German). He was also blessed with an extraordinary visual memory, which allowed him to pick up patterns in arcane alphabets that other scholars missed. Applying these talents to ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, which had not been used for a millennium-and-a-half, he spent the better part of two decades puzzling over textual and epigraphic evidence, sorting out syllables and phonemes and breaking much new ground—an achievement that infuriated his rivals, foremost among them the English scholar Thomas Young and the Swedish archaeologist Johan Akerblad, who sought to be the first to decipher the ancient code. Young accused Champollion, groundlessly, of plagiarism and evidenced a keen hatred for his French counterpart that poisoned the professional literature for years. Champollion’s poor health kept him out of the field, and even his desk work took its toll; toward the end of his life, he complained that “My last picture with 700 hieroglyphic and hieratic signs has killed me.”

The authors know their Egyptology, and in them Champollion has found worthy champions. Their highly readable account will be of wide interest to students of ancient history and cryptology—and to anyone who enjoys a bookish detective story.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-06-019439-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2000

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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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