Insightful, cantankerous pursuit of lingering lessons.

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THE DRAGONS OF EXPECTATION

REALITY AND DELUSION IN THE COURSE OF HISTORY

Essays by distinguished historian and humanist Conquest (Hoover Institute/Stanford) blame faulty worldviews for a wide variety of missteps and miscalculations.

Following up on Reflections on a Ravaged Century (1999), the author continues to reassess the effects of Western misguidance and its contributions to a protracted and costly Cold War with a Soviet Union that was itself cloaked in self-deception and political fallacies. He still holds to the general notion that the European Union is a utopian failure in its own right, and that some form of “Anglosphere,” an interdependent union of English-speaking nations sharing fundaments in law and human rights, offers the best hope for shoring up and preserving the Western tradition against all who come against it. Although he frustratingly does not elaborate, Conquest includes terrorism among the “isms” that tend to feed on imperfect research and misinterpretations of history that amount to nothing more than so much bad intelligence. He finds “fashionable academics” behind decades of terrorist recruiting worldwide, from the IRA to India, noting that “the September 11 bombers were almost all comfortably off young men, some having been to Western universities and there adopted the extreme anti-Western mindset.” The bombing itself, Conquest further notes, was celebrated by both extreme rightists (e.g., American Nazi Party) and leftists here and in Europe. In an entertaining diatribe on bureaucratic muddling that has the effect of promoting barbarism in our culture, the author rails against a “half-educated or diseducated class that puts vast wealth into purchasing objects they believe to be ‘art.’ ” While he claims America is more infected with this syndrome, Conquest’s ultimate example is London’s Tate Gallery, which acquired from the late Italian artist Piero Manzoni cans of his own excrement, artifacts created specifically to expose gullibility in art buyers.

Insightful, cantankerous pursuit of lingering lessons.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2005

ISBN: 0-393-05933-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2004

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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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