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FLAUBERT IN THE RUINS OF PARIS

THE STORY OF A FRIENDSHIP, A NOVEL, AND A TERRIBLE YEAR

Flaubert’s writing is vitally important to anyone seeking to understand the history of the period, and Brooks provides a...

Detailed examination of Gustave Flaubert’s historical novel Sentimental Education (1869) and how it may have prophesied the “terrible year” of 1871.

At least that is what Flaubert claimed as he walked through the ruins of Paris: the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, collapse of the French Army, defeat of Napoleon III, the Siege of Paris, and civil war could have been prevented had only people read his book. Brooks (Comparative Literature/Princeton Univ.; Enigmas of Identity, 2011, etc.) provides a long summary of Sentimental Education, which he admits might try readers’ patience. His professorial tone and deep diagnosis of Flaubert’s style will reawaken one’s sense of being a student trying to comprehend a profound university teacher, and the book will require some rereading to fully comprehend some of Brooks’ insights. Nonetheless, he keeps the narrative moving. Flaubert’s friendship with George Sand and their correspondence give a good indication of his attempts and intentions to convey the history of his contemporaries in 1848 that he felt was just a dress rehearsal for 1870. The history of France in this period is vital to understanding Flaubert’s work, and Brooks presents a thorough picture of the lessons of the revolution as farce and the significance of class conflict. The terrible year was bad enough with the loss to Prussia and their siege of Paris, but the civil war and the folly of the Paris Commune resulted in horrendous atrocities and devastation. “It was a year of almost unimaginable suffering, defeat, humiliation, hatred, and fratricidal conflict,” writes Brooks, “a year when war and surrender were followed by siege, cold, hunger, then class warfare on a scale never seen before.” Flaubert claimed that Sentimental Education showed how most of the suffering was caused by ignorance and the immense human capacity for self-deception.

Flaubert’s writing is vitally important to anyone seeking to understand the history of the period, and Brooks provides a scholarly but not inaccessible entry point.

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-465-09602-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Basic Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Awards & Accolades

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  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist


  • National Book Award Winner

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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NIGHT

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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