A humane, well-reasoned investigation of the Arab countries of the Middle East and the tremendous vitality of their...




A sly, knowledgeable look at the changes in Arab mores and politics since the 1970s, from a New York Times journalist with extensive experience in the region.

MacFarquhar (The Sand Café, 2006), the Times’ former Cairo bureau chief and current UN chief, grew up in Marsa Brega, Libya, where his American father worked as a chemical engineer. Largely sheltered from the repercussions of the Six-Day War in 1967 and the military coup by Muammar Al-Qadhafi in 1969, the author returned to the Middle East after college in America to find out what he missed, learning Arabic and traveling through the area as a foreign correspondent. Here MacFarquhar attempts to uncover the positive changes in Libya, still plagued by Qadhafi’s “erratic, often adolescent theatrics” and without a clear notion of his succession; Lebanon, where farmers in the Bekaa valley rue the end of the civil war in 1990, which eliminated their lucrative business growing hashish and opium; Kuwait, where the author interviewed a sex therapist (“ ‘A veiled woman writing about sex. Can you imagine? They love it, sweetie,’ she told me, laughing”); Saudi Arabia, where fatwas, or religious edicts, are issued daily on social and political matters; and Syria, where he spoke with Mohamed Shahrour, an outspoken critic of the narrow, violence-centered interpretation of the Koran. Everywhere the author encounters the repressive tentacles of the secret police agencies, or mukhabarat, especially in Saudi Arabia, with its Wahhabi clerics, and Morocco, ruled by the whims of the king. Having to navigate among oil wealth, repression and the simmering resentment of a struggling populace continues to plague the Arab states, stifling what MacFarquhar believes—and convincingly argues—they urgently need: new ideas, technology and innovation.

A humane, well-reasoned investigation of the Arab countries of the Middle East and the tremendous vitality of their inhabitants.

Pub Date: May 4, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-58648-635-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2009

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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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