An informed correction to biographies that have demonized or lionized Toussaint. Note: Bell’s documentation is erratic;...

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TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE

A BIOGRAPHY

A sympathetic and sometimes necessarily speculative biography of the Haitian leader whose military and political acumen made possible the independence of his country—although he died in a French prison before the official declaration on Jan. 1, 1804.

Bell (English/Goucher Coll.; The Stone That the Builder Refused, 2004, etc.) artfully and gracefully assembles the wispy, elusive threads of Toussaint’s tale. He begins with background about Columbus’ arrival on the island he called Hispaniola and proceeds with a brief analysis of the importing of African slaves to work on the sugar plantations. Bell notes that we know little about Toussaint’s early years (spent on a plantation, where he worked with horses), but by the time the revolution exploded in 1791, he’d been free for about 15 years and had owned slaves himself. Bell astutely follows the complicated geo-politics involved in the revolution. England, France, Spain, the United States—all had an interest in the region; all, at one time or another, had land and/or naval forces near or on the island. And to varying extents, Toussaint allied himself with all of them, though he always, Bell persuasively argues, sought the abolition of slavery. Toussaint emerges as both accommodating (he endeavored to keep the plantation system—though with paid laborers) and sanguinary (he did not hesitate to order executions). Bell highlights the many parallels between the careers and capabilities of Napoleon and Toussaint; he shows how foreign military involvement can result in tragedy for all; he comments intelligently on the relationships between Voodoo and Catholicism.

An informed correction to biographies that have demonized or lionized Toussaint. Note: Bell’s documentation is erratic; sometimes he identifies his sources, sometimes he doesn’t.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2007

ISBN: 0-375-42337-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2006

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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