Yalom’s prose occasionally seems a bit breathless for an octogenarian author, but her first-person confidences give this an...

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HOW THE FRENCH INVENTED LOVE

NINE HUNDRED YEARS OF PASSION AND ROMANCE

Cultural historian Yalom (Birth of the Chess Queen, 2004, etc.) explicates Gallic attitudes toward the not-always-so-tender passion.

Tracing l’amour à la française “from the emergence of romance in the twelfth century until our own era,” the author employs an enjoyably downright style, blending in her own experiences in France over the course of 60 years as well as the personal stories of French friends. She begins with the troubadour poetry that established the idealized conventions of courtly love in medieval France, then moves on to the more cynical trope of gallant love, which emphasized physical passion. The distinction between a true emotional bond and mere lust runs through all of French literature, but they are not necessarily in conflict; Yalom notes the culture’s forthright acceptance of sexual pleasure, so much more problematic for puritanical Anglo-Saxons. The famous union of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, who maintained an “essential” love while enjoying “contingent” loves with others, is a 20th-century example of the pragmatic French acknowledgment that marriage and passion don’t always go hand in hand. Yet Yalom finds many examples of French men and women (but mostly women) overwhelmed by all-consuming ardor, from Racine’s Phèdre to the “irresistible force that penetrates through the skin, regardless of its color,” in Marguerite Duras’ novel, The Lover. Yalom also covers homosexual love in the works of Proust, Gide and Colette, and she devotes a chapter to the “yearning for the mother” that fueled some decidedly sexual affairs between young men and older women in the novels of Stendhal, Balzac and others.

Yalom’s prose occasionally seems a bit breathless for an octogenarian author, but her first-person confidences give this an engagingly informal tone that matches the relatively light treatment of its subject.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-204831-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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