Though the chapter on current affairs yields little new insight, Akbar presents a thoughtful historical perspective, rich in...

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THE PAST AND FUTURE OF PAKISTAN

Among the spate of recent books about Pakistan, India Today editorial director Akbar’s (Have Pen, Will Travel: Observations of a Globetrotter, 2011, etc.) elegant, probing work exhibits a sympathetic insider’s understanding of the complex, evolving relationship between Muslims and Hindus in the area.

The author traces the early isolation and vulnerability of the Muslim community in India with the collapse of the Mughal Empire in the mid-18th century, squeezed from both sides by the increasingly numerous Hindus and increasingly powerful British. “A strange alchemy of past superiority and future insecurity shaped the dream of a separate Muslim state in India,” he writes. The Muslim clergy thrived as an educated, military class, led by the moral instruction of Shah Waliullah, who propounded a “theory of distance” regarding the Hindu infidels. His idea of a separate Islamic state without dynasty was taken up by the first Muslim political party, the Muslim League, in 1906. The community’s sense of inferiority rendered it ripe for the embrace of a great galvanizing leader, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, an English-educated lawyer who was embarrassingly unfamiliar with Islamic teachings. Yet it was Gandhi who won the hearts of the Muslims by insisting on carrying out his “non-violent jihad.” Akbar masterly reconstructs the final tensions among the Indian Congress and Muslim League, Gandhi, the British and Jinnah, as unity broke down and partition was declared in August 1947. The struggle between a religious and secular state was just beginning, however, undertaken next by Sayyid Maududi, “godfather” of Islamic fundamentalism in South Asia, charismatic leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and strongman General Zia. The author concludes darkly with a contemporary portrait of Pakistan still beset by secessionist worries and religious extremism and Balkanized by Western influence.

Though the chapter on current affairs yields little new insight, Akbar presents a thoughtful historical perspective, rich in detail, research and gloom.

Pub Date: July 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-213179-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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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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