A penetrating argument that the heady mix of religion and modern nationalism are at the heart of the Bosnian catastrophe. Sells is a professor of religion (Haverford Coll.) of Serbian descent. Here he joins these personal and professional interests, although he sides not with the Serbs but with the Bosnian Muslims. His book is both a condemnation of anti-Muslim religious stereotyping by Serbs and Croats, and an impassioned argument that the genocide in Bosnia is ``grounded in religious symbols.'' He is forthright in his accusations, charging that Western policymakers failed by denying Bosnia the right to self-defense and by neglecting their ``moral and legal duty'' to uphold the Geneva Convention's call for action against genocide. Sells is determined to debunk the popular misconception of ``ancient Balkan hatreds'' and to replace it with what he perceives to be the driving force of the war: explicitly modern, anti-Muslim religious and nationalist mythologies in which Muslims are represented as Christ killers and in which the Bosnians who long ago converted to Islam are seen as race traitors (because all Slavs, supposedly, should be Christian). However, while religion explains much in the former Yugoslavia, it does not explain all. Political, economic, historical, and social factors, though they're often overemphasized, have their place in an examination of Yugoslavia's collapse. Moreover, the war in Bosnia cannot be isolated from the larger conflict in the former Yugoslavia. And while Sells convincingly exposes the slander, falsehoods, and misinformation about Muslims that Serbs and Croats accept as true, he sheds no light on how and why they came to believe in these myths. Still, Sells's well-written, impassioned, and informed book represents a deepening of the ongoing discourse about the collapse of Yugoslavia.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-520-20690-8

Page Count: 222

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1996

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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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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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