A worthy effort by a youthful author whose best work on Romanian topics may still lie ahead.



A scholarly, if sometimes slapdash, historical commentary asserting that the available evidence strongly suggests that modern Romanians are descended from third-century Romans.

Saying Romanian history is complex would be an understatement. As this book attests, it is in fact bewildering and loaded with unanswered, perhaps unanswerable, questions. Dacians, Romans, Barbarians, Magyars and all manner of conquering and itinerant peoples trek through its often unwritten history. Contradictions and competing interpretations abound. Into this morass comes a formidable debut from Davidescu, a Princeton graduate student whose name bespeaks Romanian roots. With humorous asides, Davidescu offers his well-footnoted take on a classic “who was there first” controversy that has embroiled historians for hundreds of years. What seems to be uncontested is that Rome annexed Dacia, a kingdom roughly encompassing what is now Romania, in the year 106 and evacuated the province in or around 271 as Goths swarmed the gates. But did many of the Roman soldiers and colonists hunker down and remain behind, perhaps because they had by then intermarried with Dacians? Or was the evacuation more or less total, and did the people called Romanians immigrate much later to form an underclass in areas that include Transylvania, where the Magyar forbearers of modern Hungary long ruled? Davidescu, emphatically a believer in Daco-Roman continuity, exhausts sources both modern and ancient in making his case for the continuity theory. Along the way, he pokes fun, sometimes derisively, at immigration theories popular among Hungarians, who lost Transylvania to Romania after World War I and never got over it. The quality of Davidescu’s scholarship is hard to assess for anyone not steeped in this contentious, obscure history whose resistance to clarity cannot fairly be blamed on him. That said, what’s needed here is basic proofreading to weed out persistent mistakes that give his text a messy quality. “Dacia was seen for its early history seen as a defensible and prosperous province,” he writes in one typical example. The book also seems to vacillate between being a somewhat jocular popular history accessible to lay readers and being rigorously academic. In the end, it’s not quite either.

A worthy effort by a youthful author whose best work on Romanian topics may still lie ahead.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2013

ISBN: 978-1490532530

Page Count: 196

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2014

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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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