ALL SAID AND DONE

As the finality of the title indicates, Simone de Beauvoir considers this the last volume of her autobiography, a summing-up. At the outset she promises to consider in terms of its "themes" a life which in the previous four volumes (Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, The Prime of Life, Force of Circumstance, A Very Easy Death) she has related more in terms of its events. It is a promise she never fulfills. This book is a pleasant but somehow centerless compendium of odds and ends from the ten years since the publication of Force of Circumstance — new and continued friendships, deaths, dreams, fond gossip, books read, films and plays seen, works written (here explained and defended against critics), travels touristic and political, feminist and socialist ideas — prefaced by a more forceful but still unevenly interesting essay on the provocative question, "Why am I myself?". Her meditations on this subject consist of brief recapitulations of the stages of her life from the perspective of Sartrean psychology (the conflict between one's sense of subject and one's treatment by others as an object) and of the related question of free will: to what extent is a human being formed by circumstance — parents, social class, friendships, schooling — and to what extent did Beauvoir shape herself?. She traces with satisfaction the persistence from her youngest years of a stubborn will and an "eagerness for knowledge" that have guided her through circumstance; but she never really comes to terms with the question. There are flashes of intensity and wonder — especially in Beauvoir's account of her relationship with a young woman who is obviously an intellectual adopted daughter, perhaps because Sylvie gives Beauvoir the grasp of the future which old age by her own testimony lacks, and without which she has, alas, loosened her grip on the present.

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 1974

ISBN: 1569249814

Page Count: 476

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1974

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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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