HOLY WAR

HOW VASCO DA GAMA'S EPIC VOYAGES TURNED THE TIDE IN A CENTURIES-OLD CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS

Historian and Economist contributor Cliff (The Shakespeare Riots: Revenge, Drama and Death in Nineteenth Century America, 2007) presents Portugal’s outreach to India as a deployment by a fundamentalist Christian monarchy against Islam.

The author offers shocking documentation that Vasco da Gama's voyages to India's east coast were not only aimed at the spice trade of the merchants whose annual, monsoon-driven convoys kept the European supplied from Venice. In addition, King Manuel’s ambition “required India’s rulers to switch their entire trade to the West and oust every last Muslim from their lands,” just as his own kingdom and the neighboring Spanish monarchs were then doing to their Moorish and Jewish subjects. Scrupulous attention to coastal navigation was combined with overland exploration by undercover agents to investigate the structure of the trade routes. Both strands succeeded, but not completely—nobody was able to discover the mythical Prester John and his kingdom. For failing in this respect, Pedro Álvares Cabral, who mapped India's east coast and its ports, was disgraced on his return Portugal. Covilha, one of Manuel's spies, was afraid to return and was discovered, many years later, in Ethiopia. Superstition may have provided part of the fuel for the project, but there was nothing fantastical about the gunpowder and shot of Gama's cannons, and the brutality applied to the Zamorin of Calicut and his people on his next return. Throughout the narrative, Cliff examines the roots of many succeeding atrocities and massacres, all levers in the service of opening foreign markets to competition and securing what even then was called “fair trade.” A useful addition to a continuing lively discussion of Christianity and Islam, situated both in respect of religions and culture, as well as empires and trade.

 

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-173512-7

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2011

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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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