Glenny’s instinct for weaving complex political threads into powerful narration makes his history essential reading for...

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THE BALKANS

NATIONALISM, WAR AND THE GREAT POWERS, 1804-1999

A sorely needed and authoritative history of the Balkan peninsula.

The popular media have oversimplified the omnipresent Balkan crisis for the public, according to BBC correspondent-turned-historian Glenny (The Fall of Yugoslavia, not reviewed). They suggest that the backward Balkan populations have been at war over religion for centuries, and that the unrest in Bosnia and Kosovo are merely extensions of that historical hatred. To those who find this explanation inadequate, Glenny brings impressive historical research and his longtime Balkan journalist’s experience to bear on the problem. Rather than approaching the region as a conglomeration of pathologically static religious and ethnic feuds, he portrays the Balkans in constant reaction to the political and economic fluctuations of the great powers. Historically, when the great powers have intervened in the Balkans, they have done so with the very worst motives: whether they were filling the power vacuum left by the crumbling Ottoman Empire in 1878, playing for Austro-Hungarian influence in 1914, or jockeying for best positions during the military operations of WWII, the great powers invariably left the region an economic shambles for local politicians to sort out as best they could afterwards (which was usually not very well). Glenny ultimately suggests that the international community’s current policies of humanitarian intervention (such as the peacekeeping troops in Bosnia and Kosovo or the air war against Serbia) are doomed to failure if the great powers fail to address the need for economic investment in the region. While this final insight is open to debate, Glenny presents his argument with excellent historical examples and compelling journalistic prose.

Glenny’s instinct for weaving complex political threads into powerful narration makes his history essential reading for anyone striving to make sense of the seemingly impenetrable Balkan crisis. (12 maps)

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-670-85338-0

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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