The latest issue of the Yale Annals of Communism Series contains significant revelations in the midst of rather turgid and disconnected documents. As Pipes (Russian History/Harvard; Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime, 1994, etc.) notes, much of this material, consisting of messages within the Soviet bureaucracy, tends to be elliptical and refers to events and people without much significance today. Although Pipes explains the material and identifies the protagonists, it is inevitably a little like looking for small nuggets of gold among the pebbles. Nonetheless, the starkest revelations—no longer unexpected, but stark in their brutality- -concern Lenin's repeated acts of cruelty. ``Hang (hang without fail, so the people see) no fewer than one hundred known kulaks, rich men, bloodsuckers,'' he instructs the comrades in charge at Penza, underlining the words ``no fewer than one hundred'' three times. ``It is necessary secretly—and urgently—to prepare the terror,'' he orders the secretary of the Communist Party's Central Committee. Perhaps most surprising is that this treatment is extended also to Jews: ``Treat the Jews and urban inhabitants in the Ukraine with an iron rod,'' he orders. Similarly, he instructs his followers to carry out the confiscation of church valuables ``with the most savage and merciless energy''; orders strikers arrested and hundreds of people deported; gives orders to subvert a treaty that he has just signed; and dismisses his experts as ``shit.'' Other minor revelations include proof that Lenin's mother enrolled herself and her children in the nobility of Simbirsk, so that Lenin, to the embarrassment of the Soviet authorities, was actually a hereditary noble; that in his personal relations with his subordinates he could be highly solicitous (insisting that Stalin take three-day weekends); that he had a low opinion of Trotsky's military abilities (``nothing but bad nerves,'' he sniffs after reading one of Trotsky's telegrams); and that he wrote even to his mistress, Inessa Armand, as if he were reporting to the Central Committee. Not engrossing, but highly enlightening.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-300-06919-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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 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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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