MOTHER INDIA

A POLITICAL BIOGRAPHY OF INDIRA GANDHI

New York Times correspondent Gupte (Vengeance, 1985; The Crowded Earth, 1984, etc.) says here that Indira Gandhi is ``hard to read.'' In fact, she is nearly invisible in this ``political biography'' that mostly reproduces, with all their organizational flaws, Gupte's previous articles on Gandhi—except perhaps for ten chapters depicting the slain Indian P.M. as selfish, inept, tyrannical, intellectually limited, and surrounded by sycophants. Born in 1917, daughter of Nehru, friend of Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi grew up amidst economic privilege and political turmoil that marked her whole life. Married to a Parsi she met while studying at Oxford, Gandhi, mother of two children, began her political apprenticeship by helping her father after her mother's death; like most of her family, she spent time in jail for political opposition. Upon her father's death in 1964, she herself became India's P.M., winning the support of foreign ``Titans'' (the description here of her meeting with LBJ is charming)—but not native Indians. Rioting, urban and rural poverty, religious conflict, war with Pakistan, and corruption—of which she herself was convicted before she suspended the constitution and jailed the accusatory journalist—were, according to Gupte, symptoms of Gandhi's failure to carry on the Mahatma/Nehru vision of a secular, unified, democratic India. Her assassination in 1984, like her son's in 1991 (with which the book ends), seemed inevitable; and— as Gupte points out in a sad concluding note—there is now no Indian leader of sufficient stature to replace the Gandhis. A major flaw of this high-minded book is its composition, a lumpy mix of the author's opinions and earlier pieces, gossip, and memories of Gandhi's friends. Similarly, the exposition is confusing, structured around issues rather than its subject's life. A proper political biography of Gandhi is yet to be written. (Sixteen pages of photos—not seen.)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-684-19296-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1991

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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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