A useful corrective to the historical record by a trustworthy narrator.



An engaging account of those six days in October when it seemed as if the world were coming to an end.

Veteran New York Times journalist and editor Frankel (The Times of My Life, 1999) covered Khrushchev in Moscow and Kennedy in Washington, and he brings a balanced appreciation for the motivations driving and obstacles facing both leaders as they confronted each other in the fall of 1962. Many things were at issue, Frankel writes, but one factor was that the Soviet premier worked from a sense of insecurity: “It was to offset a debilitating weakness, not to imperil America, that Khrushchev careered into the crisis.” At the same time, he suggests that the Soviet decision to place intermediate-range missiles in the satellite state of Cuba was not without provocation: Khrushchev and many of his lieutenants were deeply resentful of a recent US decision to locate Jupiter missiles in neighboring Turkey, aimed directly at the Soviet Union. Interestingly, writes Frankel, the Soviet ploy—which would have required the presence of more than 40,000 technicians, soldiers, and support staff—barely involved the Castro regime, which was largely kept out of the loop even as Fidel clamored to advertise the deployment of missiles as a nose-thumbing to the hated Yanquis. Though he growled convincingly, Khrushchev, Frankel believes, was “decidedly less menacing than the man we had all pictured from afar”; he was more concerned with making symbolic gestures and attained face-saving concessions than with actually touching off the next holocaust. Similarly, Frankel writes, Kennedy had no desire for war, and—by sharp contrast with the current administration—he took pains to consider how European and Latin American allies would view his actions. They rattled sabers with not much intention of using them, and in the end, Frankel holds, both leaders “found it useful to exaggerate the danger they had surmounted” for political reasons, though it did neither any good. A crisis, then, but less dangerous than we thought.

A useful corrective to the historical record by a trustworthy narrator.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-345-46505-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Presidio/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2004

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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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