A comprehensive and, at times, lively chronicle, but not for casual readers with no prior knowledge of European history.

THE HABSBURGS

TO RULE THE WORLD

A sweeping chronicle of the rise and fall of the Habsburg dynasty.

In this ambitious overview, Rady, a professor of Central European history and author of The Habsburg Empire: A Very Short Introduction (2017), delivers a mostly chronological journey through the Habsburg dynasty from the 13th to the 20th centuries while contextualizing the times in which it flourished and, eventually, faded. Because the empire over which the Habsburgs reigned was enormous (“the Habsburgs were the first rulers whose power encompassed the world”), nonacademic readers may find it difficult to keep track of all the names and dates. Nevertheless, Rady valiantly attempts to give the principals some distinct accomplishments and traits: Maximilian (1459-1519), a self-promoter “who oversaw the composition of three allegorical autobiographies in which he depicted himself as the most chivalric and accomplished of knights,” brought Spain into the empire. Charles V, Maximilian’s grandson, attempted to outlaw Protestantism and eventually conceded that the Spanish Habsburgs would be split off from the Austrian Habsburgs and ruled respectively by his son Philip and brother Ferdinand while he retired to a monastery. Rudolph (1552-1612), a great art collector, employed Johannes Kepler as his astrologer, and Maria Theresa (1717-1780) instituted schooling for all children, frowned upon alchemy, and banned vampirism, which fascinated the media at the time: There were stories of “the undead feasting on the living, of exhumed bodies oozing with the blood of victims, and of stakings and beheadings.” Franz Joseph, whose nephew and heir would be assassinated in 1914, ruled for almost 70 years and created the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Though Rady is quick to acknowledge the Habsburgs’ missteps and weaknesses, he concludes that “their legacy survives…as a vision that combined power, destiny, and knowledge, and blended earthly and heavenly realms in a universal enterprise that touched every aspect of humanity’s temporal and spiritual experience.”

A comprehensive and, at times, lively chronicle, but not for casual readers with no prior knowledge of European history.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5416-4450-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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...

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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