A timely, valuable resource for those who want a deeper understanding of a troubled region.

THE IRANIANS

THEIR CULTURAL HERITAGE AND ITS TRANSFORMATION

A panoramic history of the Iranian people rediscovers their original sources of moral and political strength while dissecting the causes of their cultural decline.

Saney, an Iranian-born academic and lawyer with several titles under his belt, provides a sweeping history of Iran as a “tool to describe the cultural scene.” The first seven of 10 chapters exhaustively describe the arc of Iran’s development, from the rise of the Persian Empire and its ultimate decline through a dizzying succession of dynastic rulers. Not content to merely offer an empirical catalogue of events, Saney mines Iranian history for clues about its essential character, detailing the many accomplishments and contributions proffered to the world. Once a crucible of creative achievement in the region—the Athens of the Middle East—Iran was a center of innovation in architecture, music, literature and science. So what happened? Saney attaches Iran’s general descent to a gradual surrender of its own unique culture after languishing under a train of despotic Arab and Turkish rulers. The painful experience of tyranny broke the Iranian spirit, and the rise of an oppressive Islamic rule substituted a stultifying Muslim order for their indigenous Zoroastrianism. This shifted their cultural focus from “universal benevolence to sectarian prejudice,” “sexual equality to the subordination of women” and, even more fundamentally, from “cheerful vision to mournful existence.” Along the way, Saney also explains the extraordinary influence of Zoroastrianism on Judaism and Christianity; their profound connection may be shocking to readers familiar only with the yawning chasms that divide the religions today. This impressively erudite study is saturated by scholarly detail, which could fatigue the amateur historian; however, it is also rigorous and clear, refreshingly shorn of ideological baggage, and unencumbered by hyperspecialized academic jargon.

A timely, valuable resource for those who want a deeper understanding of a troubled region.

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-1463557003

Page Count: 404

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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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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