Russia's chaotic but captivating past and present come together in this perceptive narrative of one family's estate and the village life surrounding it. Inspired by his grandfather's descriptions of its natural beauty and the agreeable life there, Schmemann, a Pulitzer Prizewinning New York Times correspondent, visited the ruins of Sergiyevskoye (the village is now called Koltsovo), the site of his ancestral estate 90 miles south of Moscow. At first he wanted only ``to catch the echoes of a native land.'' But the journalist's connection with Koltsovo deepened as he came to regard the village as his unique window onto Russian life through the centuries. Schmemann relates the estate's history from its origins in the late 18th century through its purchase by one of his ancestors, a member of the Osorgin family, during a game of cards. Tales of daily life at the estate are mingled with an ongoing narrative of Russian history, customs, village life, political trends, and family lore. Readers come to know individual members of the Osorgin family as well as the current generation of Koltsovo villagers, who make a particularly striking impression. From this rich mÇlange the reader takes away two central themes: the Osorgin family's deep and lasting religious faith and the tenacity of the Russian peasant. Schmemann movingly recreates the harmonious and spiritual life that characterized the Osorgin family and the inspiration they drew from the beautiful natural setting of their estate on the Oka River. Peasant life, on the other hand, was predictable only in its suffering and endurance: ``These people had survived serfdom, reform, revolution, and war; they had known despotic and benign barons.'' And yet they are still there, doing their best to survive under the current regime. Schmemann succeeds where others haven't by refusing to idealize the past and by bringing to his subject an empathy that, perhaps, is his own claim to the Osorgins' spiritual heritage. (62 illustrations, 2 maps, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-43810-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 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...


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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