WHEN A CROCODILE EATS THE SUN

AN AFRICAN MEMOIR

Zimbabwe’s disintegration in the hands of ruthless dictator Robert Mugabe, recounted in careful, beautifully crafted prose by a journalist born and raised there.

Godwin’s powerful story combines vivid travelogue, heart-wrenching family saga and harrowing political intrigue. Mugabe’s pillaging of Zimbabwe is a crime still grossly underreported by the international press and largely ignored by the world community. It is all the more harrowing when seen through the lens of its impact on the lives of Godwin’s intrepid parents, an engineer and physician who came to Rhodesia as newlyweds. Hardly the stereotypical colonial exploiters, George and Helen Godwin helped build and nurture the country; they even applauded many of the changes that overthrew white rule and saw Zimbabwe’s transformation in 1980 into a black-governed land. But in February 2000, barbaric forces were set loose by Mugabe, a mass-murderer still viewed by many Africans as a liberator. Gangs of gun-toting looters, encouraged by Mugabe and his henchmen, plunged the country into anarchy. White-owned farms were “repossessed” by thugs who cared little about growing crops. Businesses were ransacked, often by the corrupt police force. The fragile economy was destroyed while millions starved. Hundreds of white families and black members of the political opposition were murdered in their homes. Like many of his compatriots, the author left Zimbabwe, becoming a journalist and documentary filmmaker first in England and later in America. But he returned home regularly to visit his aging, increasingly isolated and anxious parents, whose friends were steadily being killed or forced to flee. Despite Africa’s numbing violence and despair, Godwin (Mukiwa, 1996, etc.) never loses sight of the natural beauty and native spirit that drew his parents there in the first place.

A haunting story.

Pub Date: April 17, 2007

ISBN: 0-316-15894-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2007

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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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