Gorky’s paragraphs are stark photographs of horror and hope.


A new, vigorous translation of the first installment of Gorky’s three-volume autobiography, first published in 1914.

Hettlinger, who directs international study programs at Georgetown University and translated The Collected Stories of Ivan Bunin (2007), begins with a swift summary of Gorky’s life (1868–1936), from his impoverished childhood (“Dickensian” is far too feeble a term) to his disturbing late-life pro-Soviet positions. (Gorky is a pen name; he was born Aleksey Peshkov.) The first volume of his autobiography is a stunning work—intense, violent, loving, wrenching, funny and frightening. It begins with the little boy viewing the body of his dead father. Soon after, another horrific scene—his mother giving birth on the floor to a little brother who quickly died—and then his father’s burial in the rain. All of this occurs in the first five pages. Gorky eventually moved in with his grandparents. His grandfather was explosively violent (beatings were routine), while his grandmother was more compassionate and protective. The grandmother was also an engaging storyteller, and Gorky distributes throughout the memoir a number of her affecting tales—verbatim. As his boyhood advanced, his living situation deteriorated, with the family moving into a series of increasingly dilapidated lodgings. Nonetheless, the author found himself drawn to a number of boarders and neighbors. Among the first is “Gypsy,” who helped out with their dyeing business, but soon died after doing a heavy-lifting chore for the family. Another boarder they all called “A Fine Business” (one of the man’s default phrases). Though he was a loner, Gorky befriended him, a relationship the family did not tolerate, and they eventually expelled the man from the house. The volume ends with the death of his mother, and the author, 11 years old and homeless, adrift on poverty’s sluggish river.

Gorky’s paragraphs are stark photographs of horror and hope.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-56663-840-1

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Ivan Dee/Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2010

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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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