Docherty demonstrates, a bit murkily, that the Khyber Pass remains central to the transmission of cultures, religions and...

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THE KHYBER PASS

A HISTORY OF EMPIRE AND INVASION

Strategic history of the 30-mile stretch within the White Mountains that forms an uneasy border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Today the Khyber Pass functions as a turbulent alley for international gunrunning against the resurgent Taliban and their al-Qaeda allies. It has always been a frontier, notes first-time author Docherty: “an ancient zone of contested ground, long disputed and never entirely at peace.” Because it marks the northwest front line to the Indian subcontinent, it has served as a crucial gateway for armies and ideas, from Persian king Darius’s penetration into the rich lands of India in the fifth century B.C.E. to the winding down of the British Raj in 1947. Alexander the Great came through the pass and conquered the Punjab but didn’t stay long; the area was subsequently ruled by India’s Mauryan dynasty. The Kushans, a wayward Chinese clan, disseminated Buddhism to the rest of the world through the pass, which later enabled the first Muslims to introduce Islam to South Asia. Genghis Khan was followed by the Mughal Empire, the rise of Sikh power in the Punjab and repeated Afghan incursions. The Khyber Pass was the furthest outpost of the British Empire; once the British army occupied Afghanistan in 1838, nearly perpetual warfare was necessary to keep open the vital route between Kabul and India. No invading army has gone through the pass since Pakistan took control of the region in 1947, but it again became a hot spot in 1979, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Docherty alleviates his somewhat benumbing history of successive empires with livelier accounts of actual visits. Most unsettling is his tour of Darra Adam Khel, deep inside the Tribal Areas, where a centuries-old tradition of gunmaking ensures “the plentiful supply of cheap firearms [that] has long helped the region to maintain its reputation as a wild frontier.”

Docherty demonstrates, a bit murkily, that the Khyber Pass remains central to the transmission of cultures, religions and weaponry throughout the region.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-78672-092-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Union Square/Sterling

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2007

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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