DISCOVERY

THE QUEST FOR THE GREAT SOUTH LAND

A map of the social, historical, and often mythical impulses that led the Western world on a search for the great Southern Continent—and Australia’s distilling of society’s most fantastic dreams and nightmares. The title of this debut volume is misleading, since Estensen’s account stops at James Cook’s famous 1755 circumnavigation and never gets further inland than the shore, leaving the discovery of the interior to another volume. However, her research is truly impressive regarding the staggering number of voyages European nations undertook in the hopes of finding a rich southern continent. Starting from Pythagoras’ first supposition that, on a spherical earth, a massive southern continent must balance the northern half, Estensen details with almost tiresome inclusiveness exactly how many attempts were made to find it and by whom, and with what degree of disaster they met. When even the best ships were like Wiffle balls on the open ocean, when longitude had not yet been invented, and when most captains measured speed and direction by dead reckoning, still, hundreds of ships set out to find either Java La Grande, as it was called, or a trade route around it. What is most striking is the incredible power of the myth, in spite of, and perhaps because of, the massive number of deaths it inspired. A good example is the infamous Batavia disaster, where shipwrecked passengers and crew turned to slaughtering one another mercilessly under an impromptu martial law. At one point, Estensen describes a trip as successful “despite the usual deaths and crises,” of which there were a shocking number. Only man’s lust for new sources of precious metals, gems, and exotic agricultural products could explain such tenacity. Though a laundry list of voyages, Estensen’s meticulous account conveys the bravery and persistence, as well as cowardice and cruelty, of these early explorers. (8 pages color, 18 b&w illustrations)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-312-21756-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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