THE POLITICS OF MEMORY

THE PATH OF A HOLOCAUST HISTORIAN

Here, from the dean of Holocaust historians, is that rarity, a contemporary autobiography that is actually too short. Recently retired as a professor of political science at the University of Vermont, Hilberg writes movingly of his youth in Vienna and his experiences as a refugee in Cuba and New York. The heart of his work recounts the 13 lonely years he spent sifting through over 40,000 German documents while researching his pioneering, magisterial work, The Destruction of the European Jews (1961), the first study to look at the German bureaucratic machinery of destruction from 1933 on. He notes how difficult it was to find a publisher—several university presses (including Princeton and Columbia) rejected the manuscript. Hilberg also staunchly defends his controversial thesis that during the Holocaust, European Jewish institutions became ``an extension of the German bureaucratic machine.'' Yet his view on this question is severely limited by his lack of access to the Yiddish and Hebrew sources carefully culled by Isaiah Trunk in his book Judenrat. This definitive work on the Jewish councils under Nazi rule paints a much more complex picture of local Jewish leaders' behavior. However, Hilberg is on target in critiquing such historians as Martin Gilbert, who define ``Jewish resistance'' during the Holocaust so broadly as to render the concept almost meaningless. He also settles scores with other scholars and popular historians of the Holocaust, most notably political philosopher Hannah Arendt. Hilberg tellingly notes how extensively Arendt ``borrowed'' from The Destruction for her Eichmann in Jerusalem, while providing only the flimsiest credit. Hilberg's style is crisp and succinct, perhaps to a fault. This is very much the memoir of a scholar; those hoping for extensive insights into Hilberg the man will be disappointed. One is left wanting more, though also filled with admiration for this remarkable historian's single-minded dedication to his craft.

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 1996

ISBN: 1-56663-116-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Ivan Dee/Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1996

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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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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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