An ambitious book with the courage to take on the images that complacent postcapitalism might prefer to forget, and the...

DREAMWORLD AND CATASTROPHE

THE PASSING OF MASS UTOPIA IN EAST AND WEST

BuckMorss (The Dialectics of Seeing, 1989) turns her Benjaminian eye on the often surprising convergence of the Western and Soviet utopian imaginaries, to dazzling effect.

Reading this book is like receiving a fascinating annotated scrapbook from your really smart friend in Moscow. From 1988 to 1993, BuckMorss was a visiting scholar there, at what was first called the Institute of Philosophy of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. The fact that, by the end of her tenure, it was known as the Russian Academy of Sciences attests to the ideological turbulence of those years and to the dynamism and relevance of her task. BuckMorss's previous book was a daring attempt to reverseengineer Walter Benjamin’s Paris Arcades Project out of the more than one thousand fragments left behind at his death. If Benjamin's project was, as he put it, ``concerned with awakening from the nineteenth century,'' BuckMorss's current undertaking is a nonetoogentle attempt to shake us out of the nightmare that has been our 20th. The scope of her research, often breathtaking, more than justifies a certain measure of methodological madness: with an irreverent collagist sensibility worthy of the high modernism at issue here, she nimbly leaps from a blackly hilarious and terrifying chronology of the policy decisions surrounding Lenin's embalming, to a minihistory of the figure of the square in avantgarde art on both sides of the Cold War, to a visual pun that compares the architectural sketch for a neverbuilt ``Palace of the Supreme Soviets,'' topped by a monumental Lenin statue, with a film still of King Kong atop the Empire State Building. There's even an early-1990s attempt at ``hypertext'': scholarly footnotes that threaten to overtake the page. This experiment, however, works less well than those parts of the book that devote themselves to a cleareyed reading of the visual detritus of mass culture.

An ambitious book with the courage to take on the images that complacent postcapitalism might prefer to forget, and the erudition to read them with rigor and wit.

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-262-02464-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: MIT Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2000

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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