No hagiographer, Short delivers a clear, useful picture of his subject and his country.

A TASTE FOR INTRIGUE

THE MULTIPLE LIVES OF FRANÇOIS MITTERRAND

An accessible biography of François Mitterrand (1916–1996), the first popularly elected socialist president, whose life “mirrored the contradictions and compromises of the times in which he lived.”

In simple terms, foreign correspondent Short (Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare, 2005, etc.) explains the workings of French politics from the World War II Vichy government through the highly productive years of Mitterrand’s government, sparing readers much of the alphabet soup of France’s parties. In true French fashion, the author downplays the leader’s personal life and his “two families.” After escaping from a German prison camp, Mitterrand searched for the best method to rid France of its occupiers. The Vichy government of “free France” suffered accusations of collaboration and obvious cooperation in the roundup of Jews, which tainted all who worked with its leader, Philippe Pétain. Despite his resistance activities, Mitterrand would face similar accusations for the rest of his life. The Fifth Republic, under Charles de Gaulle, put near-monarchical power into the leader’s hands. Mitterrand’s efforts at colonial reform, the Algerian War and his refusal to vote for de Gaulle led to his wilderness years and pushed him firmly into the Socialist Party. Even so, he was mocked since, according to his contemporary Guy Mollet, “he did not become socialist…he learnt to speak socialist.” The author describes Mitterrand as an ambiguous, haughty, inaccessible procrastinator who was invariably late. When he finally successfully became president of France, it was during the highly charged years of the 1980s. Working with West Germany’s Helmut Kohl and working around Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, he fought to establish the European Union and the euro as its currency. He battled against Israeli intransigence regarding the Palestinians, Reagan’s “Star Wars,” and the influences of Iran and Syria in the Middle East.

No hagiographer, Short delivers a clear, useful picture of his subject and his country.

Pub Date: April 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8050-8853-3

Page Count: 640

Publisher: John Macrae/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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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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