Using a series of brief, fragmented descriptions, Agos°n (who edited What Is Secret: Stories by Chilean Women, 1996, and other volumes) reconstructs the wanderings and difficulties of her family Agos°n’s grandparents, a tailor and a cigarette-roller, began their travels at the beginning of this century when they fled Russia for Istanbul to escape anti-Jewish pogroms. From Istanbul, they moved with their children to Marseilles in France, where Agos°n’s father was born, before sailing to Chile, where they hoped to escape poverty with the help of a relative who ran a successful business in Valparaiso. Once in Chile, the family settled in Quillota; they were the only Jewish family in the small town. Despite their attempts to assimilate (Agos°n’s grandfather gave up speaking Russian and her grandmother would only light the Sabbath candles after all the windows in the house had been covered with wrapping paper), Agos°n’s father MoisÇs was always considered an outsider. Excluded from the private schools of the upper and middle classes, MoisÇs went to the public school and eventually left Quillota to study medicine. But even as a university doctor in Santiago, MoisÇs continued to encounter anti-Semitism. In 1968, student protests and slanderous newspaper articles forced him to close his prestigious research labs. Shortly thereafter, he moved his family to Athens, Ga., never to return to Chile. Though Agos°n’s complicated family history is a worthy subject for a memoir, her melodramatic, overly sentimentalized writing robs the story of its power. Agos°n continually casts her family as saints in a sinning world—apparently they never fought, never had a character flaw. The result is that, though the prejudice her family encountered was deplorable and undeserved, Agos°n’s black-and-white portrayal makes the history of their difficulties ring hollow, the stuff of allegories and fairy tales, not real life. (16 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1998

ISBN: 1-55861-195-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Feminist Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1998

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?