CASTLES BURNING

A CHILD'S LIFE IN WAR

The wise, heartbreaking, and very human account of a childhood interrupted. Denes (In Necessity and Sorrow, 1976), a professor in psychoanalysis and psychotherapy at Adelphi University, was five years old in 1939 when her father, a newspaper editor and publisher, fled Hungary for the safety of New York City. As he did everything, Gyula Denes fled in style: first-class and with an entirely new wardrobe of 12 suits and 45 shirts. That, in order to do so, he was forced to throw his young family, who remained behind, on the mercy of their relations did not seem to bother him overmuch. Nor did he contact them or send them help in the following years. At first the Deneses were merely poor, but as the war progressed they became persecuted and finally hunted, hiding under floorboards, in cellars, and even in the vilest bathrooms (so vile that their enemies did not want to search there) in order to survive. Denes's elder brother and hero, Ivan, was killed in the final days of the war while acting as a courier for the Zionist resistance group Hashomer. The Russian ``saviors'' who liberated the family's town sent her 14-year-old cousin Ervin behind German lines to tell the enemy to surrender; he never returned. Denes survived, along with her mother, aunt, and grandmother, largely because of her resourcefulness and innate intelligence; what died in the war was her innocence. Finally the family obtained visas for Cuba. When their ship stopped briefly in New York City, Denes met her father, who told her she was not a very pleasant child. ``I know,'' she replied. ``Starving for prolonged periods of time while simultaneously being fed on by packs of lice tends to corrode one's pleasanter side.'' Denes was 12 years old. Wry and tragic, her story brings the horrifying realities of wartime to vivid life.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-393-03966-8

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more