A definitive but dull biography of the least known of Europe's 20th-century dictators. Preston (International History/London School of Economics) makes some significant changes in the generally received portrait of Franco that has come down to us. He portrays Franco as admired by his troops in Spanish Morocco, where he spent ten of his early military years, for his thoroughness and his insistence on always leading assaults personally. In the Spanish Civil War itself, however, he was prodigal with his soldiers' lives, as he deliberately waged a war of attrition designed to kill as many enemy soldiers as possible rather than to win quick victories. Preston believes that the ruthlessness and exemplary use of terror Franco learned in Africa dominated both his political and military conduct. His ferocity in getting rid of rivals was exceeded only by his executions of tens of thousands of Republican supporters during and after the war (he would sign sheaves of execution notices while in his car, without reading the details). Preston's most interesting new material derives from his analysis of Franco's relationship with Hitler and Mussolini. Admirers of Franco have seized on Churchill's praise of the Spaniard for not joining the Axis powers in 1940, despite the aid he had received from Germany and Italy during the Civil War. In truth, Preston shows, Franco was eager to get into the war, particularly when he thought that the Germans were winning, but only if he received economic aid. It was Hitler's reluctance or inability to pay Franco's price, rather than Franco's shrewdness, that scuttled negotiations. Although Preston omits some of the context in which Franco operated—notably the atrocities committed by the Republican forces opposing him—Franco emerges as an extraordinarily unlovable figure, cunning, with a hunger for adulation and an icy cruelty. Careful and thorough, if uninspired, and likely to remain the standard biography in English for some time to come.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 1994

ISBN: 0-465-02515-3

Page Count: 1056

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1994

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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 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...


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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