BERLIN AND ITS CULTURE

A HISTORICAL PORTRAIT

An ambitious—and successful—attempt to grapple with a problematic city. Few cities in Europe can compete with Berlin in laying a claim to history. Taylor (emeritus professor of German at the University of Sussex, England) has written biographies of Richard Wagner, Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, and Kurt Weill, as well as histories of medieval and modern Germany. Here, a lifetime of study is distilled. The book—like the city itself—makes demands, but the reader will be rewarded for perseverance. Beginning in the Middle Ages, the author takes us to 1990 and the formal dissolution of the East German state. As Taylor readily admits, he begins with a conventional conception of what constitutes ``culture'' (literature, philosophy, painting and sculpture, theater, music, and the decorative arts). Some may criticize the lack of attention paid to popular culture, although most scholars would now recognize that the division we draw today between ``high'' and ``low'' (or more properly ``popular'') culture was blurred for most of European history. To his credit, Taylor recognizes that contemporary cultural history overlaps with traditional intellectual history and the more modern forms of social history. Of particular interest are the last three chapters on Weimar, Nazi, and postwar Berlin: Otto Dix and George Grosz shockingly revealed the decay behind a glittering, bourgeois Berlin in the 1920s; the bombast and false heroism of the Nazi regime is contrasted with the quiet dignity and poignant literature of the ``inner emigration''; and postwar Berlin is divided between a commitment to socialist realism and the attraction of artistic freedom found in the West. Taylor's postscript touches on the problem of a unified Berlin in a unified country: He is cautiously optimistic. Beautifully produced and profusely illustrated (the color reproductions are particularly good), a look at a city whose long history has much to teach us.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-300-07200-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1997

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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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