A case of life imitating stereotype, with Meisner (History/Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison) expressing the hope that socialism in China may be rescued by a revolution against the Communist regime. There are two aims in this book: a ``historical narrative of post-Mao China'' and ``an extended commentary on the fate of socialism in late-twentieth century China.'' Much of the narrative is useful, including a good analysis of how Deng Xiaoping consolidated his power, how he maneuvered to isolate his anointed successor Zhao Ziyang, and Zhao's motives in opposing him at the time of the uprising in Tiananmen Square. As Meisner notes, Deng's commitment to socialism and democracy did not long survive his accession to power. He showed great finesse in wooing the youth and intelligentsia, and promptly forgot about them. The value of the analysis of socialism is something else. He points out that socialism, at least in its simplistic Stalinist rendering, ``meant little more than the nationalization of productive property.'' This notion, he justly observes, was not only appealing in its simplicity, but ``no threat to bureaucratic rule.'' But his own conception suggests a view of socialism that may never have been tried. Other bothersome aspects include an unskeptical treatment of statistics, the more surprising in a period when Soviet statistics have been revealed to be dramatically inaccurate. Most ``odd, or at best quixotic,'' to use his own description, is his apparent hope that ``something of socialism can be salvaged within the framework of the existing sociopolitical system,'' and that some kind of socialist revolution against the ``savage capitalism'' of the Communist government may do the trick. Further evidence perhaps that the most passionate defenders of old-fashioned ``socialism'' may still be found on American campuses.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8090-7815-5

Page Count: 537

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996

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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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