A fitting, clear-eyed send-off to an infamous dictator.




A nearly incredible, fantastical tale of the rise and fall of the “mad dog” of Libya.

By turns friend and foe of the West, champion and tormentor of his own people, over four decades, Muammar Gaddafi had plenty of help inside and out propagating one of the most arbitrarily brutal, oppressive regimes in the world. British journalist Hilsum followed the events of the Arab Spring closely for Britain’s Channel 4 News and others, and her work combines an on-the-ground eyewitness account and a nuanced history of how he managed to stay in power for so long. The locus of incendiary resentment that sparked the Libyan uprising centered on the notorious prison Abu Salim, where, on June 28, 1996, 1,270 prisoners were gunned down. Their bodies were never delivered to relatives, and their deaths were only acknowledged a decade later. With the spread of Arab discontent in February 2011, the Abu Salim families had had enough and took to the streets. Having seized power in a coup in 1969, Gaddafi gleaned the finer points of authoritarianism from his hero Gamal Nasser, the East German Stasi and the Chinese. Gaddafi embarked on a cultural revolution and so-called Green Terror to purge rivals, banned the Muslim Brotherhood as a threat to his authority, organized public hangings and essentially abolished the private sector. Hilsum diligently works through Gaddafi's grandiose schemes and jumbled reign, during which he was the target of numerous assassination attempts. With great clarity, the author demonstrates not only the criminal megalomania of Gaddafi and his pernicious network of nepotism, but also the venality and hypocrisy of the West that kept him in power until the bitter end.

A fitting, clear-eyed send-off to an infamous dictator. 

Pub Date: June 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59420-506-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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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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