A vivid, shrewd, and above all engrossing exploration of Friedrich Nietzsche's last works and days in Switzerland and Italy. Nietzsche's life as a writer began in the early 1870s and lasted only until 1888. In that final year the long-term effects of syphilis and perhaps an inherited neurological condition robbed him of his faculties, leaving him demented, then physically incapacitated and completely dependent on his unscrupulous sister until his death in 1900. Much of this last productive year was spent in the Piedmontese city of Turin, where Nietzsche lived frugally as a lodger in the home of an Italian family. Eventually, he collapsed in the street. Chamberlain—a British journalist, contributor to the Times Literary Supplement, and author of several books, of which this is the first to appear in the US—takes for her theme this painful last year. Her book is part biography, for it looks at the philosopher's intimate personal life—his preoccupation with the Wagners, his sexual failures and frustrations, his money worries and loneliness, even his close attention to diet—and part cool intellectual inquiry. She offers thoughtful and often original commentary on the four books that Nietzsche wrote during 1888 (among them Ecce Homo and Twilight of the Idols) and deftly interweaves his philosophical with his personal concerns. But above all, Chamberlain offers a tightly focused and elegantly written book whose prose style itself reflects and embodies Nietzsche's own views about the interpenetration of language and thinking. It is a significant accomplishment. Just when you thought Nietzsche had been swallowed whole by academe, along comes a writer who returns him to the public life of the mind. It is an event to be savored.

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 1998

ISBN: 0-312-18145-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1997

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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