Theodore White's you-are-there journalism makes its Soviet debut in this gripping account of the last years of the Soviet Union. Dobbs, Washington Post bureau chief in Moscow from 1988 to 1993, turns his own experiences as well as interviews with some of the major participants and the increasingly frank memoirs flooding out of Moscow to good account in reconstructing almost novelistic scenes from the decline. These include his own experience as the first US newsman allowed into the Gdansk shipyard and his presence on the scene when Yeltsin made his famous speech from a tank. He has a novelist's eye for telling detail: the table designed for negotiations in Warsaw ``providing a safety margin of three feet over and above the world's longest-recorded spitting distance''; the carpet to the Central Committee headquarters in Moscow as a guide to power, gliding past the offices of ordinary apparatchiks but making right-angle detours into the suites of top leaders; the supermarket in Houston that amazed and depressed Yeltsin—the Soviet group had scarcely recovered from the shock of the cheese section when they were ``literally shaken'' by the quality of produce in the vegetable section. ``They had to fool the people,'' Yeltsin told an aide, ``It is now clear why they made it so difficult for the average Soviet citizen to go abroad.'' Dobbs's epilogue is an excellent summation of Gorbachev's importance as ``the Communist who dismantled Communism, the reformer who is overtaken by his won reforms, the emperor who allows the world's last great multinational empire to break apart.'' The paradox is, he concludes, that by seeking to reinvigorate the Communist system, Gorbachev succeeded in destroying it. Dobbs succumbs to the temptation of using material derived from his time in Yugoslavia, which does not really fit into his overall theme, and his book is not as profound as David Remnick's Lenin's Tomb, but is well written and highly illuminating.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-43179-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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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