An academic study that will be of some interest to lay readers, but likely to appeal mainly to specialists of European...



An account of modern French politics and society, from the distinguished Sorbonne philosopher Birnbaum (Jewish Destinies, 2000).

La plus ça change, la plus la même chose no longer serves as a very good shorthand description of France, whose political identity is now in the midst of what may be its greatest transformation since the Revolution of 1789. Birnbaum makes clear that many of the polarities that have defined French politics for 200 years—Catholic vs. secular, aristocratic vs. egalitarian, royalist vs. republican, provincial vs. national, etc.—no longer apply in the present day. The carefully constructed ideal of the French citizen, for example, previously advanced to thwart the reactionaries of Church and Château, now finds itself attacked from the postmodernist circles of the Left (who find the idea of universal values problematic at best), the great masses of immigrant laborers (who do not aspire to the liberal traditions upon which the Republic was established), and the provincial natives (who feel betrayed by the globalist elites of Paris). The inevitable result is a fragmentation of French society into a plethora of small, distinct cells more reminiscent, in their clannishness and variety, of medieval duchies than a body politic. The xenophobic representatives National Front, who have received increased (though still limited) support in recent years, are more significant, in the author’s view, as an expression of mass discontent with the political establishment than as a true resurgence of genuine right-wing sentiments. Although bleak in its outlines, the author’s view is not without hope that France will be able to forge a new national identity for itself that will keep it from being swallowed by the federalism of a united Europe.

An academic study that will be of some interest to lay readers, but likely to appeal mainly to specialists of European politics and history.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8090-4650-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2001

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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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