This survey of Croatian history fills in some gaps but falls short where readers most need guidance—in understanding the nature of President Franjo Tudjman's government and the Croatian Serbs' early fear of it. Tanner (Ticket to Latvia, 1990) served as Balkan correspondent for London's Independent during the heady years from 1988 to 1993. Reflecting the book's subtitle, he emphasizes the sacrifices Croatia has made to win independence, ranging from medieval times to the present, thereby implicitly portraying Croatia as a victim in a war with no recognized innocents: ``Apart from Bosnia,'' he asserts, ``no other state in Eastern Europe or the former Soviet Union suffered such material destruction and loss of life on the road to statehood.'' Tanner's prose is generally fluid; his narrative, drawing on most of the standard secondary sources, suffers from a surprising lack of inside information or anecdotes. Even the chapters on recent events rely primarily on published sources. The most important error of judgment on Tanner's part is his reluctance until the book's final pages to write unambiguously about the less pleasant aspects of Croatian history. Until his description of recent Croatian atrocities in the Bosnian war, Tanner adopts a glib and evasive approach to important aspects of Croatia's past and present: Tudjman's anti-Semitism and his fascist-sounding remarks are presented as attempts to make ``concessions to the extreme right of a symbolic nature.'' He devotes a mere paragraph to the Jasenovac concentration camp, the central symbol of postwar Croatian Serb fears. Gruesome details about the camp, widely available, are reduced to the observation that during the recent war ``the executions were frequently messy affairs.'' While correctly noting that the Serb question will long haunt Croatia, Tanner never explores the ways in which Croatia might have allayed Serb fears and gained a peaceful path to independence. A superficial study lacking rigor and clarity.

Pub Date: April 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-300-06933-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1997

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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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