A lively, always captivating blend of comparative religion, cultural history, literary travel, and eccentric trivia that...

IN SEARCH OF ZARATHUSTRA

THE FIRST PROPHET AND THE IDEAS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD

Western culture, scholars say, rests on the twin foundations of Hellenism and Judaism. In this brilliant historical essay, BBC producer and writer Kriwaczek makes a solid case for adding Zoroastrianism to the mix.

One of the earliest of the known Indo-European religions, Zoroastrianism posits a dualistic view of the universe in which good forever struggles with evil. This was the religion of the early Aryans, the conquerors of northern India by way of Central Asia; in one way or another, Kriwaczek shows, it wandered into other cultures as well, often by way of kindred Manichaeism, to figure in the spiritual beliefs of the author of the Book of Daniel, the Vikings, the pre-Christian Bulgarians, and the Cathar heretics of southern France, who were burned at the stake en masse for rejecting triune orthodoxy in favor of the more black-and-white conception of the “Magians.” In a compelling insight, Kriwaczek attributes some of this chiaroscuro worldview to the environment of the religion’s birthplace, the high valleys of Afghanistan, where “blazing summers and crackling winters” blended with the prophet Mani’s painterly interest in light and darkness to yield “a fine art raised to the status of revealed religion—unique in spiritual history.” Zoroastrianism, Kriwaczek writes, is also very much alive and well, if perhaps thinly hidden, in that very homeland. The name of the Iranian city of Mehrabad, for instance, has its origins in a phrase meaning something like “faithful to Mithra” (a Zoroastrian deity); the joyous Iranian New Year’s celebration called Noruz is Zoroastrian through and through; and one of the avowed missions of the Taliban was to eradicate traces of this pre-Islamic belief from the Muslim practice of the Persianized urbanites of Afghanistan—another struggle of dark and light, of good and evil, one might say.

A lively, always captivating blend of comparative religion, cultural history, literary travel, and eccentric trivia that deserves a broad readership among the spiritually inclined.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2003

ISBN: 0-375-41528-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2002

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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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