MOORISH SPAIN

A brief yet insightful introduction to Moorish Spain, from the invasion in A.D. 711 by Berbers crossing the Straits of Gibraltar to the expulsion in 1614 of 300,000 Moslems by Philip III. Fletcher (History/York Univ.) is the author of The Quest for El Cid (1990), which recounted one of the many Spanish revolts against the alien Moorish culture. Starting with the misconceptions of romance, mystery, and exotica projected by 19th-century travel-writers, Fletcher argues that, in fact, the Arabs were transmitters of a highly evolved Islamic culture, bringing Christian Spain valuable contributions to its native language, art, architecture, and economy even as the invaders showed how distant empires could be governed. Between the invasion and 1492, when the reconquest began, Iberian civilization flourished. Absorbing both ancient Persian and Greek learning, classical Arabic wisdom—once translated into Latin by Christian scholars—provided Europe with Aristotelian philosophy; the navigational instruments necessary for voyages of discovery; the mathematics that inspired Newton; and the rudiments of medicine. But Fletcher concludes that, ironically, Islam's greatest gift to Spain was the myth of Christianity triumphant, born of the reconquest—of the defeat of the crescent by the cross—and manifested in subsequent centuries through intolerance, xenophobia, and religious bigotry. Fletcher is a gifted historian with an eye for vivid detail, an ear for language, and a recognition of what matters. His chronicle offers a powerful defense of assimilation and tolerance- -as well as a timely political statement, given the current belligerents in Europe and the Middle East who, like those in medieval Spain, confuse national identity with ethnic, racial, and religious uniformity. (Sixteen halftones—not seen.)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1992

ISBN: 0-8050-2395-X

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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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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