Evans clearly admires his subject but does not hesitate to consider the rougher edges—a book that will rightly bring new...

ERIC HOBSBAWM

A LIFE IN HISTORY

A well-considered life of the influential British historian, written by a Cambridge University historian who himself is well-known for many important works.

With an unusual name that came as a result of an immigration official’s misrendering of the original Obstbaum, Eric Hobsbawm (1917-2012) was unusually erudite at a very early age, well-traveled, and endlessly curious about the ways of the world. He took his birth in the year of the Russian Revolution as something of a talisman, and though Evans (The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914, 2015, etc.) deems it a coincidence, it was “one that somehow stood as a symbol for the political commitment he was to gain later on.” Already a Marxist as a teen, though one, fellow travelers complained, more given to debate than activism, Hobsbawm was a lifelong polymath who was equally at home in the literature stacks and the historical annals. As Evans enumerates, he devoured detective novels along with the Greek tragedies and works by authors in numerous languages, from Marlowe to Chekhov and beyond. Though a professional chronicler of the past—even the FBI, of which he would run afoul, called him “a noted historian”—Hobsbawm considered himself foremost a writer. His works, such as The Age of Capital (1975), remain widely read today, marked by what Evans justly praises as “readability, analytical penetration and vivid detail." During his long life, Hobsbawm was also a Marxist critic of capitalism, if one who also resisted Stalinism and a fixed party ideology; his opposition to the Vietnam War, for instance, was fierce but nuanced. For all that, as Evans writes with some circumspection, Hobsbawm also enjoyed an active extracurricular life that included a ménage a trois as intellectual as it was physical, a surprise in a book full of them.

Evans clearly admires his subject but does not hesitate to consider the rougher edges—a book that will rightly bring new attention to both writers.

Pub Date: April 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-19-045964-2

Page Count: 756

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more