A fascinating portrait, and a convincing analysis. (8 maps, chronology)

READ REVIEW

THE BALKANS

A SHORT HISTORY

A skillful navigation of the stormy seas of Balkan history.

In this brief but significant account, Mazower (Dark Continent, 1998) dispels a number of common misconceptions about one of the most misunderstood regions (and peoples) in the world. He maintains that violence is no more endemic to the Balkans than any other part of Europe, for example, and that for most of its history the area had “no ethnic conflict at all.” Of course, this begs the question: Why is it only in the last one or two centuries that the cocktail became politically volatile? The author begins with a discussion of the geography, noting that mountains “have made commerce within the region more expensive and complicated the process of political unification” and showing that even the rivers are not suitable for commerce or communication. He then begins his chronological narrative, arguing that the “basic ethnographic composition” of the Balkans dates to the seventh century a.d. While the major religions—Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Islam—have always struggled for dominance in the region, they have also (in the remoter provinces, at least) tended to melt into one another, creating a hybrid system “densely populated by invisible spirits, both malicious and benign” (e.g., the vampires of Transylvania). During the 19th century, “nation building” was the prime concern; after WWI, however, regional rivalries were “sharpened and intensified by ideology.” Mazower adheres to the conventional belief that federalism “remained the communist strategy for handling [multiple] nationalities,” and that Tito’s death and the fall of communism caused the system to break down. He also maintains that the development of material prosperity is a prerequisite for the development of strong democratic traditions.

A fascinating portrait, and a convincing analysis. (8 maps, chronology)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2000

ISBN: 0-679-64087-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Modern Library

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2000

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...

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more