First-rate reporting, sometimes alarming and always informative, from a writer whose heart instructs his mind and animates...




After extensive travel in the varied landscapes of Tibet, British journalist French (Liberty or Death, 1997, etc.) concludes that no freedom can come to this fabled land until liberty first invades and then pervades China.

To produce his splendid account, the determined and intrepid author read everything he could about the region; traveled its length and breadth by foot, wheezing bus, and coughing car; visited people in areas so remote they poked him with curious fingers to see if he was real; interviewed outcasts and officials, hookers and the Dalai Lama; dodged humorless security forces; ate native food so challenging that even reading about it makes the stomach rebel; stayed in rooms so fetid that their odors seem to adhere to the page. There is not much to laugh about, but French does occasionally flash the bright blade of irony, as in his discussion of accommodations in western Tibet, where, he writes, “the Hotel Clean Cheap . . . was dirty and overpriced.” The author begins and ends with the1998 suicide of a man he knew as a cook in the Himalayas, Ngodup, who burned himself to death in New Delhi to protest the United Nation’s ineffectual Tibetan policies. French himself chides the US for abandoning the area after Nixon went to China and is also critical of showbiz types who treat Tibet as if it were a movie set and the people quaint medievals. But he is most unforgiving in his descriptions of the horrors wrought upon the region during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, when the Red Guards swarmed into Tibet, destroying, torturing, and killing. However, the commonly cited figure of 1.2 million Tibetans dead is much too high, French argues, presenting evidence that it was closer to 500,000.

First-rate reporting, sometimes alarming and always informative, from a writer whose heart instructs his mind and animates his pen. (3 maps)

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2003

ISBN: 1-4000-4100-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2003

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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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