A sensationalist autobiographical account by a former Red Guard of his exile and victimization in Inner Mongolia during the last years of the Cultural Revolution. The story begins in 1968 when Ma Bo, a Red Guard student, left his home in Beijing for the Injgan Sum region to bring the revolution to the Inner Mongolian steppes. He soon found himself in trouble with the local party authorities. Having been summarily arrested, tortured, jailed, and betrayed by his best friend, he was branded a counterrevolutionary, which also earned him discrimination and ostracism by his fellow Red Guards. But his plight was not caused by any irreconcilable conflicts between revolutionary idealism and the crude reality of party careerism; nor was it the result of the painful disenchantment of a hapless pawn lost in the power games of some distant party leaders. He got his ticket because he, a skillful martial artist, we are told, had the tendency to get into rowdy brawls. And whereas he was preoccupied with his lone struggle to reverse his verdict, almost a good half of the memoir, which is generously dabbed with needless profanity and scatology, is devoted to the author's not surprisingly unrequited obsession with a female student. Now that the Cultural Revolution (196676) is almost 20 years removed, one expects that the passage of time would demand from anyone who looks back to those tragic years a perspective that goes beyond the easy (though understandable) habit of accusation. But in Ma Bo's memoir, the Cultural Revolution as history looks incidental. Readers who expect a memoir to rise above itself to give testimony to an epoch will be disappointed by this visceral exhibition of personal exploits.

Pub Date: March 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-670-84181-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1995

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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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