Admirers of Sharansky will appreciate this insider’s account of Israeli politics and his independent-minded life.

NEVER ALONE

PRISON, POLITICS, AND MY PEOPLE

The noted Soviet dissident and Israeli activist recounts a long history of “living life backward.”

Trained as a physicist, Sharansky (b. 1948), who co-authored this memoir with historian Troy, spent nine years in Soviet prisons for supposed anti-Soviet crimes. The rest of the time he was either alone—“I always found solitary comfortable, if I could read or write there, if it was warm, and if there was food to eat”—or with a bunkmate or two whom he suspected of being KGB informants. Meeting with Nelson Mandela long afterward, the two political prisoners compared notes: Mandela’s sentence was three times longer, but at least he had visitors. Finally, Sharansky was released and immigrated to Israel, where he immediately began agitating for the acceptance of 400,000 of his fellow Soviet Jews. They arrived, a flood of outstanding scientists, artists, and scholars who had followed the guideline that in order to survive they had to excel, and “almost overnight, the number of Israel’s doctors, engineers, musicians, and chess players doubled.” Sharansky allied for a time with Benjamin Netanyahu, opposing the Oslo Accords and other treaties with Palestine on the grounds that they elevated “[Yasser] Arafat’s terrorist dictatorship on the Palestinians, instead of cultivating the more grassroots democratic leadership that was sprouting in the 1990s.” For this, he was pegged a rightist, although as the years passed, he became a sort-of-liberal critic of Netanyahu and his party—and he doesn’t have much good to say about Donald Trump, either. Charmingly, he describes his backward approach to life events: He celebrated his bar mitzvah at 65, which allowed him to “appreciate my Torah portion’s relevance and explain it to everyone without having my rabbi write my speech for me.” Since he was imprisoned immediately after his wedding and didn’t see his wife for years, he has since worked to make his marriage a happily-ever-after story.

Admirers of Sharansky will appreciate this insider’s account of Israeli politics and his independent-minded life.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5417-4242-0

Page Count: 480

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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