An intermittently engaging memoir recollecting the difficult birth of the State of Israel, by a novelist and translator. The best parts are Schreiber’s childhood memories of Jewish-Arab Haifa and his impressions of the Jewish state’s struggle for independence. The reader gains an element of unencumbered honesty from the author’s perspective as an eight-year-old but loses much in forgotten or unlived detail, because Schreiber was too young to participate in or understand much of his era’s drama. His father was a principle figure in the pre-state colony, smuggling arms in his fishing truck before joining the ragtag, fledgling army that became the Israeli Defense Forces. Schreiber also offers some engaging scenes of what it was like for longtime settlers in Palestine to cope with a constant influx of refugees. He expresses sorrow that the Arabs didn’t show similar hospitality to their refugees’some of whom were his childhood friends from nearby Arab Haifa. A pursuer of peace, Schreiber regrets that the Arabs didn’t get their own state. The book comes alive in its anecdotes: Some Holocaust survivors, for instance, excelled in the black market. Schreiber also catches how the long struggle to create and protect the nation took its toll on some of its citizens; many members of his generation, he notes, burned out and emigrated. The second, post-independence half of the memoir is weaker, more maudlin and repetitive. Schreiber’s energy picks up when the topic is politics. He argues with some vigor that Menachem Begin was a better man than either David Ben-Gurion (“not a very likable person”) or Yitzhak Rabin, noting that “it was left to others, who did not preach socialism, to be more kind and social.” A memoir of early Israel of uneven literary and historical worth. (b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: April 15, 1998

ISBN: 1-887563-39-3

Page Count: 242

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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...


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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