By turns delightful and frustrating.

FREEDOM

THE STORY OF MY SECOND LIFE

Uneven follow-up to the Oprah-blessed hit Stolen Lives (2001).

That volume chronicled the 20 years the author and her family spent as political prisoners in Morocco. Here, Oufkir charts the strange process of returning to the world of the free. The strongest sections offer trenchant observations about ordinary life. Sickened by the ease with which people waste food, the author finds herself barely able to eat in restaurants; every time she sees a patron pick at complimentary bread and play with pats of butter, she remembers the rotten eggs that were her regular prison fare. She can’t quite get her head around credit cards or ATM machines, either. “We no longer call things by their names,” she declares, disdaining the replacement of plain words like “the elderly” with euphemisms like “seniors.” The book’s overall structure, thematic rather than chronological, works well, and translator Coverdale has crafted a conversational but never chatty tone. Oufkir’s description of her gradual recovery of healthy sexuality is honest and fascinating. Elsewhere, she falters. A chapter on fundamentalism has potential, but the author ultimately doesn’t have any real insight into how “religion set itself up handsomely” during her two decades in jail; the section peters out with an unsatisfying story about some Moroccan men who flirt with radical Islam, only to return to secularism. Oufkir can also be annoyingly coy and cagey; she devotes nine pages to the reparations she was paid by the Moroccan government but never tells the reader how much money she received. If she wanted to keep the details private, she should have cut the chapter; talking around the figure is simply distracting. And nattering on about publishing Stolen Lives and meeting Oprah Winfrey is a bit obnoxious.

By turns delightful and frustrating.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2006

ISBN: 1-4013-5206-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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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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