A well-articulated, meticulously supported study.

GOVERNING THE WORLD

THE HISTORY OF AN IDEA

Mazower (History/Columbia Univ. Hitler’s Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe, 2008, etc.) explores the evolution of internationalism.

The idea is essentially a Western creation, originating from the “Concert of Europe” in 1815 by the great powers in the wake of Napoleon’s defeat, and marking an important effort to keep sovereigns in check and create a more just “brotherhood” of nations. While the “Big Four” nations (Austria, Russia, Britain and Prussia) were more interested in policing revolutionary insurrections and restoring the principles of monarchy, they still recognized that there was too much at stake not to work together at “fundamental rules of the game.” Avoiding lawlessness and anarchy was the impulse, and many leaders sought to embrace the promotion of a law of nations and universal peace. Mazower considers some fascinating mid-19th-century currents flowing from the international groundswell—e.g., in futuristic literature (foreshadowing H.G. Wells), the peace movement, free trade, Giuseppe Mazzini’s influential notion of nationalism, communism, the founding of the Red Cross, the arbitration movement and the hope that science could develop universal humanitarian standards. After tracing the early strands of internationalism, Mazower moves into the modern’s era complex convergence of political and economic factors in forging what Mikhail Gorbachev called a “new world order.” The peacetime League of Nations, despite its failures, would “marry the democratic idea of a society of nations with the reality of Great Power hegemony.” Finally, Mazower brings us to the present, as a European union has been achieved, but has been driven by a “bureaucratic elite” with little sense of “principles of social solidarity and human dignity,” except perhaps by noted philanthropists.

A well-articulated, meticulously supported study.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59420-349-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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 moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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