A thoughtful, sobering firsthand account of the refugee experience, a story that speaks to readers far beyond the African...

COCKROACHES

A child’s view of one of history’s most chilling instances of genocide.

Born in 1956 in southwestern Rwanda, Mukasonga (Our Lady of the Nile, 2014, etc.) has lived in France for most of her life, working as a social worker while writing memoirs, novels, and short stories. “I wasn’t only Tutsi,” she recalls of the ethnic turmoil that made her a refugee, “I was an Inyenzi, one of those cockroaches they’d expelled from the livable part of Rwanda, and perhaps from the human race.” Such people, she writes later, were “fit only to be crushed like cockroaches, with one stomp. But they preferred to watch us die slowly.” The “they” in question are not just the Hutus who attacked their Tutsi neighbors, but also neighboring nations, aid workers, diplomats, and others who stood by and did nothing. It may surprise readers to learn that Mukasonga is not writing of the later, infamous Rwandan genocide of the 1990s but instead of the post-colonial power struggle that precipitated it; the ingredients were the same, with long-lingering resentment over the Tutsis’ relative privileges in a stratified society. Her point of view, however, is more personal and less synoptic; she protests that her father “was not an aristocrat with vast herds of cows,” but because he could read and write and was an accountant, to say nothing of his ethnicity, he presented a target. As her story unfolds, we learn that 37 of her family members died, along with perhaps 1 million of her fellow Tutsis. It is a harrowing tale that is only the beginning of a larger story of murder and division. As she writes toward the end, Rwanda, a place of stunning beauty, “is also the land of tears, and the roads we travel take us on a long journey through horror and grief.”

A thoughtful, sobering firsthand account of the refugee experience, a story that speaks to readers far beyond the African highlands.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-914671-53-4

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Archipelago

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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