A work of stunning scholarship and imagination whose appeal will be to determined readers rather than casual ones. (32 pages...

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THE YELLOW CROSS

THE STORY OF THE LAST CATHARS

A meticulous reconstruction of the final years of some persistent medieval Pyrenean heretics whose leaders—called “Perfects”—were eventually burned or otherwise dispersed by the equally relentless Inquisition.

Weis (English/University Coll., London) devoted five years to this remarkably detailed study of the Cathars, a small sect whose tenets included the belief that both the devil and God are eternal, that flesh is the devil’s creation (the spirit, God’s), that eating meat is unclean (fish and eggs excepted), and that at the time of death the faithful are carried to paradise by 48 angels. Cathars believed that sex is bad—but worse in marriage, where it is sanctioned. Employing topographical maps, a hiker’s constitution, a knowledge of the relevant languages and of the archival and published sources, and—most importantly—an insatiable curiosity and a vivid imagination, Weis brings to life a way of life as remote as the mountainous region where it briefly flourished. He pinpoints locations of assignations (and assassinations), of immolations, of individual homes, of alpine trails unused for centuries; he identifies days of the week when key events occurred; he tells what people ate—and with whom they ate it. Among the many notable personalities he reanimates are Pierre Clergue (a priapic priest), the earthy Béatrice de Planisolles (whose stunning testimony to the Inquisitors is an adornment of the story), Arnaud Sicre (who executed a two-year “sting” operation against the Cathars), and Guillaume, Jacques, and Pierre Authié (a family of Perfects whose devotion withstood the flames that consumed them). Pierre supposedly commented at his execution that, if permitted to speak, he would convert everyone within his hearing. Weis describes the intricate (and often internecine) connections among the families and forces in the region, explaining how the Perfects were able to avoid capture and revealing how local authorities required the proscribed group of believers to attach a yellow religious symbol to their clothing.

A work of stunning scholarship and imagination whose appeal will be to determined readers rather than casual ones. (32 pages photographs, 16 color, not seen; 7 maps)

Pub Date: April 18, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-40490-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 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...

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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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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