A timely and penetrating history of the Balkans’ next crisis zone—the Serbian province of Kosovo. With its 90 percent ethnic Albanian population dominated by Serbs with a nasty record of human-rights abuses, Kosovo is a nightmare waiting to happen. Throughout the 20th century it has presented an intractable problem to Yugoslav leaders, both royalist and communist. Malcolm, a seasoned British journalist in the Balkans and the author of a much-acclaimed work on the region (Bosnia: A Short History, 1994), demonstrates a similar appreciation for the urgency and significance of both the present turmoil and the complicated past of the region. He manages to be both concise and comprehensive. The book begins with geographic and ethnographic background and follows historical developments chronologically from the medieval period to the present. Malcolm’s prose is lively and engaging, his scholarship well documented, and he seems unafraid of offending the warring camps, displaying a strong, healthy skepticism bred of many years spent in the Balkans. He identifies several major factors in the shaping of Kosovo’s past and present situation. The Serbian Orthodox Church’s use of religious rhetoric to defend “sacred” Serbian interests (the official Serbian Patriarchate and several historic churches) is, he asserts, “a classic example of religion being mobilized and manipulated for ideological purposes.” He also objects to the Serbs’ claims of political hegemony based “on the geography of long-gone kingdoms or empires.” He blames the politicization of Albanian-Orthodox relations since the 19th century for turning divisions into outright hostility, drawing a parallel to the key role of politicians in creating the Bosnian crisis. Significantly, Malcolm openly challenges both the legality of Kosovo’s incorporation into the Serbian state as well as a historiography of Kosovo that has misrepresented parts of the region’s history due to national and ideological biases. Both scholars and general readers will appreciate Malcolm’s vigorous and trenchant analysis of the region’s troubled past and present. This is destined to become a standard work on the subject.

Pub Date: May 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8147-5598-4

Page Count: 460

Publisher: New York Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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