MEMOIRS OF A DUTIFUL DAUGHTER

This autobiography of Mlle. de Beauvoir up to the age of twenty-one is every bit as fascinating as a de Beauvoir novel, largely because she is as absorbed in herself here as a novelist is in his hero and in the same way. From her birth in 1908, through her childhood in a fairly well-to-do middle class family, through her adolescent insecurity, her loss of faith, the beginning of the drive for independence from her family, her decision to become a writer and a philosopher, her years at the Sorbonne, her discovery of the Cult of Restlessness with its consequences for her of loneliness, pride and dedication, to her final year of study, bringing her a sense of direction and purpose,— all is told with a drive and a feeling of personality that is most compelling. There are, in addition, good portraits of several members of her family, of her closest friend Zaza Mabille, of her cousin Jacques with whom she was in love, and of various fellow students at the Sorbonne including Jean-Paul Sartre. Though she passed through many stages that every sensitive and intelligent girl growing up experiences, most of it seems new because of her vitality and her intellectual curiosity. Her novelist's hand is most clearly seen in her self-editing— in spite of writing about herself in great detail, no incidents or people are presented for their own sakes alone but always as a means of furthering the book as a whole. It is a stimulating story of the birth of an existentialist and the coming of age of an extraordinary young woman. Highly recommended.

Pub Date: June 18, 1959

ISBN: 0060825197

Page Count: 386

Publisher: World

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1959

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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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