CHRONICLE OF THE GUAYAKI INDIANS

In an account that is both living history and historical document, a now-vanished tribe of Paraguayan Indians is described as it lives out its last few years of existence. This document was unearthed some 20 years after novelist Auster translated it from the French, through a serendipitous encounter with one of his fans who had purchased a bound galley from a used bookstore. Clastres, who died before the translation was to have been published, lived with this tribe for two years in 1963 and 1964 in a compound that was under the protection of a white Paraguayan. The arrangement for the Indians was through necessity; their numbers had diminished from constant harassment by white settlers. Although their benefactor siphoned off food and other supplies given by the government, this last remnant was at least safe from the encroaching 20th century. As Clastres gained their confidence, he began piecing together the rituals of their daily lives. The Guayaki permitted him to witness birth, which to the Indians was a dangerous cosmic imbalance; the father is sentenced to death by his child’s birth and can only escape his immediate fate by killing an animal in the forest. Clastres observed the physically painful initiation rites for young men, after which they were permitted to have sexual relations with women. The anthropologist also followed the tribe into the forest where it searched for honey and grubs or hunted monkeys or coati. Forest existence was precarious: The Guayaki faced danger from jaguars (an old woman was taken by one during Clastres’s stay) and in earlier days from neighboring but related tribes, whose long-simmering feuds would lead to periodic violence. But Clastres saves the best for last: The Guayaki were cannibals, eating not only the bodies of enemy warriors but also their own dead. The account is anything but dry and didactic; Clastres wrote a vibrant but inescapably poignant study about one more doomed tribe of indigenous people. (photos, not seen)

Pub Date: April 2, 1998

ISBN: 0-942299-77-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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