A remarkable travelogue documenting aspects of a country still little understood.




China is a country both ancient and brand-new—and, to judge by this revealing portrait, likely to be increasingly at odds with the U.S.

Social scientists, writes New Yorker correspondent and longtime China resident Hessler (River Town, 2001), describe the 1990s as China’s true Industrial Revolution, a time when more than 100 million Chinese moved from the countryside to booming industrial cities along the southern coast, “the largest peaceful migration in human history.” The experience has been both dislocating and empowering, as China increasingly emerges as a major power economically and a geopolitical force—often squarely against the U.S. So it is that Hessler opens with the nationwide demonstrations and riots when an American bomber destroyed China’s embassy in Belgrade; not hesitating to identify himself as an American journalist, he is swept along by a huge Beijing crowd that chants, in turn, “Don’t eat Kentucky,” “Don’t eat McDonald’s” and “Down with American imperialism,” just as in the heyday of the Cultural Revolution, though now, one Chinese man remarks, “bin Laden is even more famous than Mao Zedong.” Against this modern swirl, Hessler looks at a distant past whose details are now emerging: the origins of ideographic writing fire-hardened “oracle bones,” long-standing rivalries among various ethnic and economic groups in China’s backwater, such as the Uighurs of Xinjiang and the country folk of Inner Mongolia. Hessler’s fascination with things past does not always add up, but the temporal back-and-forth turns up some interesting phenomena; for instance, many young people, now adrift in a nation with an ideology grounded in money-making and materialism, are turning to the classics to get their bearings—and sometimes never finding them, as when one young man tells his sister “that if she read Mencius, she would become more beautiful, because the truth would shine through in her face.”

A remarkable travelogue documenting aspects of a country still little understood.

Pub Date: May 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-082658-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2006

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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