Self-loathing may or may not be the meaning between-the-lines of Sartre's writings; narcissism, however, seems the very crystallization of Simone de Beauvoir's. It's a peculiar sort of narcissism , the narcissism of the femme savante, usually referred to (by the one who possesses it) as unremitting honesty: the confessional of the intellectual, or a look in the mirror, without makeup, under the harshest light. It's other things, too: for instance, Camus'— "The sore that is scratched with such concern finally becomes a source of pleasure"—but then de Beauvoir doesn't like Camus.... This is the final volume of her autobiographical trilogy. The first explored her bourgeois rebellion; the second, the university years, the early Sartre relationship, the War; now, the past decades, from the Liberation to the present. It concludes a major work, major in that it gives us both a representative existentialist sensibility, and a behind-the-scenes picture of an age. Typically, the style's uneven; the thinking (especially the jumbled versions of certain aspects of Sartre's philosophy) embarrassing; and the disclosures about herself or other equally famous figures (poor Koestler....) rather antipathetic, self-regarding, one-sided. Everything has a tendency to slip out of gear: at one stretch the tempo is slipshod, then funereal; the tone ranges from the crisp to the lyrical, from the weary to the carping. Like Sartre, she came to political consciousness somewhat late in life; like him, she has certainly made up for it. History is Big Sister here, permeating all reactions: the revolving door maneuvers with the Communists, the positions taken vis-a-vis Korea, Algeria, Cuba, even her affaires de coeur. Indeed, how she reconciles ideological determinism with personal freedom (the book's truest touches, incidentally, concern drugs, compulsion- neuroses, thanatophobia) is certainly a triumph of sorts: one of the most significant solipsistic acts of the century. It is also a story which in its determined self-exposure has fascinated many and will continue to do so again.

Pub Date: June 15, 1965


Page Count: -

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1965


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

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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


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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