A highly effective portrait of a frighteningly powerful autocrat.

THE NEW TSAR

THE RISE AND REIGN OF VLADIMIR PUTIN

The reptilian, poker-faced former KGB agent, now Russian president seemingly for life, earns a fair, engaging treatment in the hands of New York Times journalist Myers.

The author was based in Russia for some years during Vladimir Putin’s rise to power, and he clearly knows his material and primary subject, which is very important in the tracking of this slippery conniver, who was in a good place to take power at President Boris Yeltsin’s decline in 1999. A curious, coldblooded opportunist, the spy who came in from the cold by hitching his star first to prominent politician Anatoly Sobchak, a leader of the democratic movement in the 1990s, Putin used the perks of power to create a complex system of cronyism and nepotism. Myers shows how Putin convinced everyone that this way of operating was part of the Russian soul and how he perpetuated it through an archaic form of Russian corruption—e.g., profiting from deals and then offering disingenuous explanations. When the civil war in Chechnya erupted, Putin’s strong-arm tactics and hard-line stance against terrorism swung popular opinion. “This is not just about restoring Russia’s honor and dignity,” he said. “It’s about putting an end to the breakup of the Russian Federation.” This was Putin’s successful mantra for surviving at the top, from 2000 to the present, in successive presidential runs that were frankly illegal. He took over the TV channels for the state’s purposes, consolidated gas and petroleum companies into enormously powerful monopolies, put a recalcitrant military firmly under his command, and convinced the world that Russia could hold the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi, which became his pet project. Myers astutely notes how Putin’s speeches increasingly harkened back to the worst period of the Cold War era’s dictates by Soviet strongmen. The author ends with the haunting lyrics from a Great Patriotic War of 1953 song that was conveniently used for the appropriation of the Crimea.

A highly effective portrait of a frighteningly powerful autocrat.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-307-96161-7

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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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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