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Alexander Solzhenitsyn, author of those weighty novels, has here produced in narrative verse a rather terse poem, drawn from his battle experiences in the closing days of WW II, composed in his head and memorized in his prison camp days. One understands why, once the Byelorussian offensive sweep had reached the Baltic, so many of its officers and men were sent away; they had seen the fat richness of the West: paper, good pencils, shoes, clothing, schnapps—a world where even servant girls wore shoes, very unlike Mother Russia. This is one of the preoccupations of the youngish officer who speaks. The other is the memory of the first Great War, where Russian divisions were slaughtered, chewed up, in order to divert German soldiers from the Western Front, enabling the French to win the first battle of the Marne—and save Paris. The bitterness the narrator feels about those memories enables him to condone, at least to close his eyes to, the cruelties of his own men—rape of course, and looting and burning, even such gratuitous violence as shooting a baby in his carriage: one Kraut the less. (There was one little German boy who got away, winging and dodging into the woods in spite of the fire of a dozen Russian rifles.) "Amid the violence of the crowd,/ In my heart no violence calls./ I'll not fire one stick of kindling,/ Yet I'll not quench your flaming halls./ Untouched I'll leave you. I'll be off/ Like Pilate when he washed his hands./ Between us, there is Samsonov,/ Between us many a cross there stands/ Of whitened Russian bones." Robert Conquest defends his translation in a rather lengthy and explicit afterword, and no doubt he has accomplished his task creditably. The racy ballad meter belies the seriousness of the subject; the choice was Solzhenitsyn's own, but at times it demeans the poem. Nevertheless, this is a work of great interest, because of the poet's fame, because of the difficult circumstances of its composition, and because of its inherent contradiction; these are the battlefield recollections of a pacifist.

Pub Date: June 1, 1977

ISBN: 0374513910

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1977

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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