SAINT-EXUPÉRY

A BIOGRAPHY

An overcautiously objective and unromantic approach to the French hybrid of T.E. Lawrence and Charles Lindbergh. Schiff, a former editor at Viking and Simon & Schuster, astutely begins at the middle, in 1927. Stationed in the Sahara as an airmail flyer, isolated and threatened by bandits, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry began writing seriously and developing his poetic philosophy. His aristocratic childhood outside Lyons was nurturing and idyllic, if marred by the early deaths of his father and his 15-year-old brother. Growing up in the era of the Wright brothers, he was enchanted by the airplane, and despite a desultory education and checkered employment, he obtained pilot training and a job at Aéropostale, a company in the vanguard of French aviation. His first literary success, Night Flight, romanticized his fellow flyers, their boss, and their routes; but it was published when Aéropostale was under public criticism for mismanagement (the company was subsequently liquidated). Saint-Ex found himself a celebrity just as his glory days were fading, and his literary career rose alongside chronic unemployment and failed aerial ventures (many of which ended in crashes) until he enlisted as a pilot in WW II; he disappeared while on an observation mission to France near the war's close. (The book's publication coincides with the 50th anniversary of his disappearance.) Schiff depicts Saint-Ex as a dreamy, lonely man unable to deal with quotidian life, whether finances, bureaucracies, or Gaullists. His marriage to an eccentric and emotionally unreliable South American was a further strain, and Schiff partially discloses his longtime affair with a married woman, who, still alive, refused a full revelation (even of her name). Schiff splits Saint-Ex metaphorically between these women, each vitally important to a different aspect of his personality. But unable to reveal one of them, she underplays the other as well. The result is a strangely static and unfeeling biography of the dynamic and sentimental author of The Little Prince. (16 pages of photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 1994

ISBN: 0-679-40310-8

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1994

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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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