A simultaneously sweeping and intimate family portrait.



A family’s complicated past recounted in exacting detail.

Beginning with a long interview with his aging father, Mazower (History/Columbia Univ.; Governing the World: The History of an Idea, 2012, etc.) launched an investigation into his family’s history, mining letters, diaries, photographs, extensive archival material, and memoirs by some of the many individuals who touched his family’s life. Central to the story is the author’s paternal grandfather, Max, who had been a militant activist in pre-revolutionary Russia. As a member of the leftist Bund, Max strived for nothing less than “political transformation,” and he suffered the consequences of his beliefs: police surveillance, imprisonment in Siberia, and exile in Switzerland and Germany. “He had been on the run, arrested, and questioned many times over,” Mazower discovered, “and he had sacrificed the prospect of domesticity for the cause of socialism.” In 1909, however, he fled from persecution to seek a job in England as a salesman for a typewriter company. Although he traveled back to Russia in that capacity, he made a permanent home in London, where he married and where his children—including Mazower’s father—were born. Max and his wife were members of the “the turn-of-the-century Russian-Jewish intelligentsia,” who welcomed those who shared their “consuming interest in public questions and public activities.” No longer an activist, Max remained “still engaged, highly informed, and faithful” to socialist values. Mazower’s father also “found political engagement invigorating,” and his friends “tended to be joined under the banner of a higher purpose” even though he spent his career “as a middle manager in one sector of a vast multinational company.” His life, concludes the author, was marked by pragmatism, resilience, and “the pursuit of contentment and well-being.” Through dogged research, Mazower uncovered details about his father’s half brother and half sister, myriad other relatives, teachers, friends, acquaintances, classmates, and a host of individuals whose capsule biographies he duly reports. Although some—T.S. Eliot and Emma Goldman, for example—are well-known and many interesting, the sheer number becomes overwhelming.

A simultaneously sweeping and intimate family portrait.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59051-907-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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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

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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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