INDIA

A PORTRAIT

A rollicking, ambitious journey through Indian history and mores from a keen English journalist and National Book Critics Circle Award winner.

French (The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul, 2008, etc.) takes a fondly critical step back to observe how the staggeringly diverse democracy of India actually works, how it elects officials and how it dug itself out of entrenched economic debilitation, the caste system and poverty. In three sections—Rashtra (“Nation”), Lakshmi (“Wealth”) and Samaj (“Society”)—the author takes apart the workings of a fascinating country and its people, from the founding of the nation in 1947, amid the violent integration of princely states and partition from the Muslim north, through the economic liberalization of the last ten years that has “unbound” the enterprising middle classes. French recounts the Indian legacy through personal stories, such as those of the incongruous makers of the Indian Constitution, who self-consciously modeled their endeavor on the historic American Constitutional Convention—e.g., wealthy, Anglicized Brahmin Jawaharlal Nehru, an intellectual whose nationalist secular vision of India was schooled by years in prison; and the untouchable-born lawyer Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, whose incredible personal success evolved into “the outcastes’ revenge.” Despite their differences, all aimed to hammer out a document that “balanced liberty and security, shared power and did not rely on the goodwill of any one leader.” French dwells on the perverse nepotism and tribal loyalties in regional elections, especially that of Indira Gandhi’s family, and the enduring, troubling Muslim Hindu animosity. He senses great gains in society, such as the growth of a true meritocracy allowing social mobility for the first time, and evidence of wealth everywhere. Yet still the country is plagued by a creaky infrastructure, stubborn tentacles of bribery and corruption, an indifference to horrific tales of exploitation right under the peoples’ noses and official inertia despite efficiency in everyday life. A perfectly chaotic encapsulation of Indian government, economy and social life.

 

Pub Date: June 10, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-27243-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2011

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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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ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN

Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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