ALVA MYRDAL

A DAUGHTER'S MEMOIR

Internationally acclaimed for her contribution to world peace, Alva Myrdal's personal life (1902-1986) was a series of battles—against her rural Swedish parents, her husband, her children, her reputation, and in her personal quest to find out ``How do I become myself?'' Such ironies abound in this tactful and poignant memoir by her daughter (Philosophy/Brandeis; A Strategy for Peace, 1989, etc.). ``Serving'' her demanding, egocentric, and volatile husband, Gunnar (her ``consort battleship,'' as she called him), who won the Nobel prize in Economics, Alva often left their three children for long periods of time with various surrogates, damaging them but mostly damaging her relationship with them. Still, she longed for the children she could not care for, designed a family home that isolated the parents, taught educational theory she did not follow. Her children—disheveled, neglected, drifting—parented themselves. Jan, the son, a talented writer, ultimately rejected his parents, publishing a scathing attack on his mother just as she was to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1982. Of the daughters, Kaj chose to live with a teacher on a farm, and Sissela, while her mother was in America lecturing on the status of women, was so insecure that she said she had to be seen by someone to know she was alive. And Alva's celebrated marriage itself declined into a quarrelsome intellectual companionship. Rational, unsentimental, the parents kept account books of all the money they ever spent on their children, sums they decided justified disinheriting them in favor of a ``universal heir,'' the abstract causes they had dedicated their lives to, a legacy that left the children begging from strangers for family mementos. Gunnar claimed that their social science was ``concerned with explaining why all these potentially and intentionally good people so often make life a hell for themselves and each other when they live together.'' This probing and forgiving book carries on the explanation, exploring those ironic connections and disconnections between the public and private lives that Alva, in searching for herself, could not see.

Pub Date: June 6, 1991

ISBN: 0-201-57086-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Addison-Wesley

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1991

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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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