A riveting, intimate look deep inside the machinery of the executioner.

THE ELIMINATION

A SURVIVOR OF THE KHMER ROUGE CONFRONTS HIS PAST AND THE COMMANDANT OF THE KILLING FIELDS

Harrowing personal reflections by the Cambodian French filmmaker of surviving the Khmer Rouge as a young teenager.

Rithy Panh’s film S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine explored the stories of the prisoners and their torturers from the notorious Security Prison 21, in Phnom Penh, from 1975 to 1979, yet it was only recently that he was able to interview the feared commander of the prison, known as Comrade Duch. In this work, Rithy Panh uses selections from his chilling interviews with Duch as a frame for the author’s own traumatic memories of being driven from his home with his family by the Khmer Rouge in 1975, one day before his 13th birthday. Evacuated to the countryside by the Khmer Rouge, the author, his father (serving then as an undersecretary of education), mother and younger siblings were branded “new people” by the regime—i.e., “oppressors who were to be reeducated in the countryside—or exterminated.” Moving around squalid transit camps and cooperative housing, suffering increasingly from starvation and disease, the family was stricken one by one until only the author was left to fend for himself, “a starveling, an eater of scraps,” in hospitals or camps, indoctrinated into the vicious ways of the Khmer Rouge yet able to squeak by until the Vietnamese liberation in 1979. Alternating with these memories are commentaries by the mocking and philosophical Duch, an exquisite administrator who “put the language of slaughter down on paper” and ran his torture prison like a tight ship. A technician of the revolution, as Duch considered himself, he calmly informed the filmmaker that “the Khmer Rouge were all about elimination. Human rights didn’t exist.”

A riveting, intimate look deep inside the machinery of the executioner.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59051-558-7

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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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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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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