An eloquent celebration of survival even as it explores the darkness of despair. (b&w photos)

A BED OF RED FLOWERS

IN SEARCH OF MY AFGHANISTAN

An inspiring, disquieting history of her homeland—personal, political, polemical—by an Afghan woman now living in Canada.

Best known for her journalism and the films Kandahar and Return to Kandahar, Pazira recalls among her earliest childhood memories a visit to her father (a physician and political activist) at a detention center in 1978, when she was only five. He was eventually released, but the family lived in fear and was subjected to constant harassment. The Paziras endured the Soviet invasion; their initial elation at the rise of mujahidin was soon followed by dismay and disillusionment with the harshness of these anti-Soviet fighters. The author’s description and analysis of the mujahidin’s sanguinary strategies serves uncomfortably well to explain the current behavior of Iraqi insurgents as well. By firing rockets into their own neighborhoods, she avers, the mujahidin aimed to show people in a most horrible way that the Soviets could never protect them. Following the emergence of the Taliban, the Paziras realized they must leave their homeland, which no longer welcomed—or even tolerated—people with liberal political, religious and social views. The most gripping passages deal with their escape in 1989. After bribing border guards and dulcifying military patrols, they finally got into Pakistan, but living conditions were so miserable that they eventually emigrated to Canada, which welcomed them as political refugees. The author continued her education there, then returned to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban to discover that the lives of ordinary people remained miserable despite, or even because of, the U.S. military presence. Pazira’s most wrenching discovery concerned the fate of her long-time friend Dyana, a young woman who had stayed behind and eventually succumbed to despair. In another affecting segment, the author goes to Russia to interview people touched by the Afghan war.

An eloquent celebration of survival even as it explores the darkness of despair. (b&w photos)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-8133-0

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

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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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