A richly detailed analysis of the complex historical and ideological forces that drive this large and powerful nation. Mackey (The Saudis, 1990; Lebanon, 1989) sees the paradoxical soul of Iran as a two-faced Janus that expresses both Persian culture and Shia Islam. By exploring the long and turbulent history of this strategically located nation, she guides the reader toward telling insights that explain such dramatic 20th-century polarities as the Peacock throne of Reza Shah Pahlavi and the Islamic Republic of Ayatollah Khomeini. More than a researcher, Mackey travels through Iran and experiences the celebration of No Ruz, an ancient Zoroastrian holiday still preserved with an Islamic overlay. It would be difficult to understand the zeal of revolutionary demonstrators at the American Embassy compound without this background into the black and white sensibility provided by the prophet Zoroaster. After all the country's abuse at the hands of Greeks, Seleucids, Byzantines, and Britons, it is little wonder that decadent America is an echo of Ahriman the satanic destroyer. Persia's most venerated traditions demand a just but absolute ruler, making the shah's excessive capitalism and secularism that much more foreign to Iranian eyes. While a black-turbaned imam has the unshakable credentials of a descendent of Muhammad, we learn that rivalry between Persian Aryans and Muslim Arabs replays ancient battles of the Umayyads and Abbasids. Mackey likewise allows us to understand the racial and religious animosity toward Sunni Arabs that would pit the Shia Islamic Republic against fellow Muslim Iraq. By touring the wide panorama of Iranian times and space with Mackey, we can appreciate why ``Teheran is Iran's brain, Qom is its soul, and cherished Isfahan its heart.'' (See also Judith Miller, God Has Ninety-Nine Names, p. 512.) An essential resource for anyone concerned with this crucial region's geopolitics, culture or religion. (maps) (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 13, 1996

ISBN: 0-525-94005-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1996

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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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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