The Sihks often reads as a folkloric tribute rather than an historical exploration. Nevertheless, it is an essential book...

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THE SIKHS

A revealing, historical account of the Sihk sect and the rise and fall of the Sikh kingdom in Northern India that seeks to peel away misperceptions about this self sufficient, and dynamic group.

Author Patwant Singh (India and the Future of Asia, 1966) argues that, despite being marginalized in Indian politics throughout their 500-year history, the Sihks have played an important and undervalued role in past and present India. Formed in the 15th century in reaction to the injustices of the Hindi caste system, the Sihks defended India’s Northern borders to outsiders, held their own militarily against British colonial forces, and created a thriving agricultural society. They got little thanks for their efforts and were often persecuted and sacrificed in political power struggles. Singh goes behind episodes—such as the Sihks’ abstention from the 1857 mutiny against the British and the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at the hand of Sihk attendants—that have condemned the Sihks to be seen as a self-interested group, divisive to India. The reality put forth by Singh is that the Sihks have been an integral part Indian nation-building. He writes, “Had the mutiny been more than a mutiny, the Sihks would have played a key role as they did many times in later years when the countdown to India’s independence actually began.” He also makes the case that by rejecting an opportunity to form their own state during partition negotiations in 1946, Sihk leaders made “no distinction between ‘Sihk interests’ and the interests of a soon-to-be-independent India.”

The Sihks often reads as a folkloric tribute rather than an historical exploration. Nevertheless, it is an essential book for any South Asian collection, offering a unique lens through which to view India’s troubled history and current politics.

Pub Date: April 5, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-40728-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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...

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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