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THE FIRST MUSLIM

THE STORY OF MUHAMMAD

A levelheaded, elegant look at the life of the prophet amid the making of a legend.

A longtime reporter on the Middle East, Hazleton (After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam, 2009, etc.) carefully delineates the great events in the life of the “first Muslim,” who, like the Christian prophet Jesus, was chosen as the “translator” of God’s message to mankind.

The author sifts through and synthesizes many differing and conflicting sources for a gently reverential and ultimately winning study of a humble soul in search of his identity. Hazleton effectively fleshes out the iconic events of the messenger’s life. Left fatherless as a baby, shunted to a wet nurse who cared for him and brought him up in the Bedouin ways, Muhammad grew into a capable, hardworking caravan agent for his uncle in Mecca before making an advantageous match with a wealthy widow 16 years his elder, Khadija, who would prove a steady companion and his first convert. Muhammad first made a name for himself as the arbitrator in the collective repair of the damaged sacred sanctuary of Kaaba; his altered state atop Mount Hira at age 40 was an experience of “poetic faith,” Hazleton explains, resulting in beautiful verses flowing from his lips. He spoke urgently of social justice and reform, and he spoke in Arabic. Exiled from Mecca by the ruling elite, he again proved a natural, masterly negotiator among tribes in Medina, appealing to a higher authority to solve their disputes and drawing up a binding contract of monotheism. Hazleton explains that he resorted to violence only after a passive resistance got him nowhere—the troublesome precedent of jihad. The author writes poignantly of the evolution of the public messenger from the private man.

A levelheaded, elegant look at the life of the prophet amid the making of a legend.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59448-728-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2012

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NIGHT

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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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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