A book that belongs on the shelf alongside The Gulag Archipelago.



A charged indictment of Soviet terror and historical amnesia alike.

If one were needed, a sure sign of the increasingly totalitarian drift of Putin’s Russia is the steady rehabilitation of Stalin, long hidden away but now safe enough to be commemorated at a Moscow subway stop. Moscow-born journalist Gessen (The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, 2017, etc.), the indefatigable chronicler of the low-grade fever of tyranny, provides a searching text on the prison state that was Stalin’s Russia, accompanied by photographs by Moldovan native Friedman. His work is much reminiscent of Cartier-Bresson’s, though with a darkness and graininess that suggest that a permanent pall lies atop the Siberian landscape, a place of endless uranium mines and cemeteries. The text opens with Gessen’s meditation on what might have happened to the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, spirited into the gulag at the end of World War II and one of its best-known occupants. As the author notes, were he alive, he would be 104, which makes his death “finally, a fact,” if one with “no known circumstance of specific cause.” So it is with the whole gulag enterprise: if it were meant to terrorize the populace on the part of the apparatchiks and secret police, “then shouldn’t they want to carry out the executions in the public square?” No, and for some reason, most of the extrajudicial activity of the Soviet state took place in darkness. As they travel the land, Gessen and Friedman document some of the efforts of Russians to commemorate the fallen, such as a reconstructed labor camp so chillingly accurate in its detail that, a former political prisoner averred, it “felt exactly like a real Soviet-era prison camp,” a comment its restorer and curator accepted as a compliment. But those efforts may be vain, Gessen suggests, in the face of widespread public indifference in the Putin era, as if to say that the Soviet terror “just happened, whatever.”

A book that belongs on the shelf alongside The Gulag Archipelago.

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9977229-6-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Columbia Global Reports

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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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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Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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