A thoroughly researched, riveting journey into the heart of darkness. (4 pages maps, not seen)




Popular historian Dash (Tulipomania, 2000) rediscovers an astonishing, sanguinary, and sexy 17th-century drama of mutiny, shipwreck, murder, and mayhem.

In June 1629, the Dutch East India Company’s ship Batavia, seven months out of Amsterdam, hit a South Pacific reef at full speed. Passengers and crew scrambled to survive and to save as much as they could of the valuables aboard. At this charged moment in the narrative, Dash takes us back to the Netherlands for some background on the principal players in a gory drama whose first act has only just begun. They include: randy captain Ariaen Jacobszoon; Dutch East India Company representative Francisco Pelsaert, the ultimate authority onboard; and apothecary Jeronimus Corneliszoon, an “under-merchant” just below Pelsaert on the organizational chart. The Batavia was on her maiden voyage when she hit the reef and sank. But she had already become, like all long-range vessels of the time, a home for vermin of every description and a fetid community of the unwashed. (Dash gives as many details as he can find about the ship, including her salvage in the 1960s, and he’s lavish with sidelights in Dutch history as well, such as the fact that among the main customers for spices from the Indies were butchers who used them to mask the smell of rotting meat.) Immediately after the wreck, Captain Jacobszoon deposited most of the survivors on a barren, deserted island while he and some of the sailors headed for Java and a rescue vessel 900 miles away. “The calibre of the men on the island,” states Dash dryly, “left a great deal to be desired.” Indeed it did. By the time the rescuers arrived, Corneliszoon and his henchmen had murdered and raped scores of people, but they received justice as cruel and unusual as their crimes in the form of torture, mutilation, and hanging.

A thoroughly researched, riveting journey into the heart of darkness. (4 pages maps, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60766-9

Page Count: 25

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2001

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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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