A stylish, erudite meditation worthy of its provocative subject.

THE MIRROR

A HISTORY

Beginning with a tale of early modern industrial espionage, newcomer Melchior-Bonnet considers the mirror’s significance in moral, religious, and philosophical discourse throughout history.

In the 17th century, Venetian craftsmen were smuggled into France to staff the Royal Glass Company in an attempt to undermine the Italian monopoly. The Venetian government retaliated with kidnappings, forged letters, and other subterfuges to protect what they regarded as a state secret: the techniques of mirror manufacture. Out of the ensuing battle for a growing market emerged technological developments that transformed the mirror from a rare and costly object into a staple artifact of modern experience. From antiquity onward, mirrors stood for what is most wonderful and problematic about sight, both defining and extending the limits of vision. During the Middle Ages the mirror’s religious impact was twofold: in the humanist tradition, it served as a reminder of how the human body reflected the divine image; but another vein of Christian morality viewed the mirror as a tool of Satan, a snare especially for women, whose sexuality it made monstrous and threatening. The mirror’s social function as an instrument of self-knowledge similarly engendered a dual aspect: it was a dispassionate observer, judging the gazer's looks and demeanor on behalf of the public eye; and also a secret partner and accomplice, conspiring to blot out consideration of anything but the self. To the mirrors of truth and vanity are added the distorting mirror of madness, which alters what it reflects to reveal fresh truths or terrors, and the permeable mirror of dreams, which presents an alternative and contingent reality. Bonnet-Melchior discusses all these ideas in terms of representative literary, philosophical, and pictorial texts spanning the centuries. These readings are uneven: the author clearly knows more about literature and philosophy than she does about art, but the scope of her ideas and her evident ease with the broad range of materials compensate for occasional interpretive weaknesses. Alas, they must also overcome the translator's inappropriate colloquialisms and botched allusions.

A stylish, erudite meditation worthy of its provocative subject.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2001

ISBN: 0-415-92447-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Routledge

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2001

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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