THE HUMAN RACE

Published in France in 1947, here translated for the first time, Antelme's memoir of his year (1944-45) in a German labor camp was written to assuage his guilt at surviving and to deal with his depression. Stylistically, and in its attempt to turn the prison into a microcosm, it resembles e.e. cummings's The Enormous Room, the fictional representation of cummings's experience in a French prison camp. An anthropologist by training, Antelme (husband of Marguerite Duras) was arrested for participation in the Resistance and was sent first to Buchenwald, then to Gandersheim, where, among an international collection of political prisoners, he worked in a factory and slept on the straw-covered floor of a church. Condemned to death by work rather than in the crematoriums, the prisoners suffered a range of indignities, discomforts, and deprivations; beyond food, warmth, sleep, they lost human contact, such rituals as funerals and holidays, and even simple greetings that acknowledged their humanity. The camp functioned on a system of parasitism: like the ubiquitous lice tormenting the unwashed prisoners, the criminals in charge of the prisoners depended on their underlings' labor, and these overseers, in turn, answered to the SS. With little to affirm his humanity (looking in a mirror, a gift of bread), Antelme feared becoming ``nothing but plumbing for soup, something that they fill with water and that pisses a lot.'' And much of the book involves just that: getting food, picking nits, and, his only freedom, disposing of bodily waste. An intense, unsparing, and brutal homage without anodyne, philosophical comfort, or affirmation. Antelme's homecoming, recounted by Duras in The War, provides a positive closure to the experience.

Pub Date: June 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-910395-77-2

Page Count: 298

Publisher: Northwestern Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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