History on a grand scale, with themes to match.




Engrossing study of a city that three cultures, religions and peoples can call home.

Mazower (History/Columbia Univ; Dark Continent, 1998, etc.) begins his history of Salonica—Thessaloniki in Greek—in antiquity, but quickly leaps forward to 1430, when the Byzantine city came under Ottoman rule. There it remained until 1912, when it reverted to Greek control—control that temporarily gave way to the Nazis during WWII. What makes the city’s history so distinctive and riveting is its religious diversity. Christianity came first: Energized around the third-century martyr Dimitrios, Salonica developed into a robust center of eastern Orthodoxy. The Ottoman Empire brought Islam and the replacement of churches with mosques. Beginning in medieval times, the city also contained a large, Ladino-speaking Jewish population, comprised of exiles who made their way there after being expelled from western European countries. Salonica became a center of Jewish mysticism and, in the 17th century, of messianic fervor. The Jewish community’s lively history might be seen as the heart of the text, while the story of the Jews’ extermination at the hands of the Nazis gives the narrative its moral depth. Alternating currents of religious coexistence and bloodshed make this a history whose contemporary relevance is too clear. But Mazower’s richly textured work does much more than offer a few object lessons for today. Based on solid archival research, it intertwines the city’s political history with glimpses of its daily life, including the appearance of European carpets, sideboards and marble-topped tables in middle-class houses of fin-de-siècle Salonica and the emergence of a modern press. The only minor flaw here is the introduction, in which Mazower regales readers with the tale of the book’s two-decade gestation, when what he should be providing is a simple, concise overview of Salonica’s story.

History on a grand scale, with themes to match.

Pub Date: April 29, 2005

ISBN: 0-375-41298-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2005

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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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