Though the book is mostly of specialist interest, it is vigorous and accessible and helps explain some of what’s going on in...

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THE OTTOMAN ENDGAME

WAR, REVOLUTION, AND THE MAKING OF THE MODERN MIDDLE EAST, 1908-1923

Thought-provoking historical study of the closing years of the Ottoman Empire and the concurrent rise of the modern Middle East.

McMeekin (History/Bard Coll.; July 1914: Countdown to War, 2013, etc.) observes early on that there’s much more to that story than the smoothly duplicitous diplomacy that makes up the last hour of Lawrence of Arabia and much more than T.E. Lawrence himself. Certainly there is more than the Armenian genocide, horrible though it was. If there’s news in this scholarly treatise, it might be found in the author’s explanation for how that still-controversial event unfolded, an explanation likely to satisfy neither side precisely because it’s evenhanded. Without offering an apology or rationalization, McMeekin describes the exhaustion the Turks felt on fighting a multifront world war, “coming as it did after three years of war against Italy and the Balkan League” and so exhausting Ottoman resources that the military leader who would become Kemal Ataturk instituted the draft for non-Muslims and allowed men up to 55 to enlist. Thriving on untold stories, McMeekin looks at the punctuated collapse of the Ottoman Empire in Eastern Europe and its momentary successes following the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, which had the effect of exposing rivalries between the Ottomans and their German allies that almost resulted in war on yet another front. The author also gives a lucid account of the geneses of secular governments in what became Turkey and those of more theocratically or autocratically inclined ones in the neighboring former provinces. A particularly surprising note is the lobbying on the parts of numerous powers, not least the Turks, for postwar U.S. mandates over the Middle East—thwarted only by the fact that “the Americans themselves wanted no part of them.”

Though the book is mostly of specialist interest, it is vigorous and accessible and helps explain some of what’s going on in today’s headlines.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59420-532-3

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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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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