A provocative and increasingly chilling work that shows how scientists in the nascent Soviet Union were sacrificed to the...

STALIN AND THE SCIENTISTS

A HISTORY OF TRIUMPH AND TRAGEDY, 1905-1953

Picking through a minefield of Soviet utopia and paranoia.

All sciences would coalesce into one, and this science would usher the new socialist being—so believed the Soviet state in its promulgation and censoring of brilliant Russian scientists from the establishment of the Bolshevik order onward. British novelist and science writer Ings (A Natural History of Seeing: The Art and Science of Vision, 2008, etc.) builds from the utopian vision of lofty scientism advocated by Lenin and Alexander Bogdanov in 1904 to the surviving crop of nervous scientists under Stalin, who were busy trying to make thermonuclear weapons in the late 1940s. The first hurdle for true scientists—e.g., the mineralogist and geochemist Vladimir Vernadsky—was the crippling material conditions in Russia, a situation caused largely by successive famines in the early 1920s and the rampant backbiting in the Academy of Sciences and other official agencies that effectively monitored and restricted intellectuals. The new order was in a hurry to bring on a “revolutionary generation,” and above all, the Bolsheviks needed engineers, removing specialists from universities and ensconcing them in well-appointed institutes that became hives of bureaucratic and competitive disgruntlement. After Lenin died, Stalin moved to industrialize the country by fiat and quickly “rattle through the stages by which true communism might be achieved.” Ings moves somewhat unevenly through these stages of increased authoritarianism, beginning with Stalin’s Great Purge, which sacrificed many brilliant scientists and intellectuals such as Nikolai Vavilov, an internationally revered botanist whose fall was startling (“We shall go to the pyre,” he predicted). “Pure science” did not exist, and many scientists were galvanized in Stalin’s “Plan for the Great Transformation of Nature,” a grand deforestation and dam-building project to make even the natural world yield to the plan.

A provocative and increasingly chilling work that shows how scientists in the nascent Soviet Union were sacrificed to the Soviet dream of building the ideal state.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2598-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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