The great novelist tells us what she dreams about. Between 1930 and 1936 Marguerite Yourcenar conscientiously recorded her dreams when she woke up in the morning. In 1938 she published them in France. Why? Certain obvious reasons come to mind, but they are wrong: she is not a Freudian or Jungian dream interpreter, and she thinks little of the surrealists’ enthusiasm for dreams. Yourcenar, a supremely autonomous intellectual, was seeking to explore the dreamlife on her own, without help from orthodox schools of thought. What interested her was not the universal—common to all dreamers (therefore conventional sex dreams are excluded)—but the highly individual. Consequently, one could take this book as a skeleton key to the writer’s inner self, though it might be more appropriate simply to take the book at face value. It collects a person’s nocturnal adventures. But it does so in remarkably beautiful and acute prose: “I do not, however, draw near him; I consider his solitude as a form of nudity that I have no right to spy on in secret.” “He picks up the telephone receiver and gets ready to lie the way a virtuoso prepares to play.” The pleasure of reading her strange dreams is highly literary in a way that is simultaneously sensual and intellectual. And she proposes the idea that dreams are related more closely to the processes of memory than of the imagination. This new, first-ever English translation includes not only the 1938 publication in its entirety but also Yourcenar’s substantial set of notes, mostly from the 1970s, which she made toward a planned sequel that never came to be. These notes, fragmentary as they are, are also highly engaging. The translator’s preface is verbosely academic, but the high quality of his translation redeems him. This fine and unique book could help wrest our dreamlives from the Freudians and Jungians who have colonized them: “It is not the symbol that will instruct us about man’s secrets, but what we know about the man that determines the meaning of the symbols.”

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-312-21289-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

Close Quickview