A cleansing, passionate memoir.



Novelist and memoirist Raphael (Hot Rocks, 2007, etc.), contemplates with stark honesty his changing attitude toward the nation that persecuted his parents.

His mother, whose comfortable family had lived in Vilna since the 17th century, was a slave laborer at a munitions factory in Magdeburg, Germany, during World War II. His father, who grew up in eastern Czechoslovakia, was conscripted for forced labor on the Russian front, then sent to Bergen-Belsen, where he became a Kapo and tried to alleviate the sufferings of other Jews. Both lost family members in the Holocaust, and these ghosts created a wall of silence and sadness around them in Raphael’s childhood home in New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood. His parents spoke Yiddish to each other and did not share stories about their experiences with their two sons. They openly scorned the prewar German Jews of Washington Heights and the Reform synagogue down the street; indeed, Raphael absorbed his parents’ hatred of all things German and their shame at being Jewish. Ironically, their decision not to circumcise their sons separated the boys not only from other Jews, but also from the majority of Americans. The author records his gradual, painful coming to terms with his identity as a Jew, a gay man and a writer finding his voice. Recognizing that he deeply craved more knowledge about his Jewish heritage, he attempted to break the silence imposed by his parents and “heal my own split from Judaism” in his first published story, which appeared in Redbook in 1978. Compared to the memoir’s searing early chapters, Raphael’s recollections of pleasant book tours through modern Germany seem rather pallid, despite stirring descriptions of his visits to the camps that haunted his parents’ dreams. Nonetheless, it’s moving to read that the author finally felt liberated from his family’s tragedy by the warm reception he received from contemporary German audiences.

A cleansing, passionate memoir.

Pub Date: April 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-299-23150-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Terrace Books/Univ. of Wisconsin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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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 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...


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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