Lively instruction on how Afghanistan has coped, and continues to cope, with being a strategic flash point.




A breezy, accessible overview of centuries of messy Afghan history, including the present military quagmire.

Ansary has previously written history from “Islamic eyes” (Destiny Destroyed, 2009, etc.); here, he casts the perplexing trajectory of Afghanistan as a kind of chaotic but nonetheless functioning scrimmage interrupted periodically by foreign invaders bent on their own “great game.” First united under the neo-Persian young leader Ahmad Shah, the various Pushtoon tribes first grew into a national awareness of "Afghanistan" by the mid 18th century. All the while, they remained wary of the Europeans, specifically the British and the Russians. Repeated invasions helped coalesce the Afghan state, firm up its borders and establish the capital at Kabul, as well as helping “unleash the unruly energy of Afghan tribal society.” As a native of Kabul, Ansary lends precious insight into the makeup of the typical Afghan village, with its tidy, self-sufficient, patriarchal hierarchy and need to keep the nomads at bay. The loss of Peshawar, institutionalized in the arbitrary Durand line drawn up by the eponymous British diplomat in 1893, continued to be a thorn in the Afghanis’ side until the present. The modernizing period ushered in by Amir Amanullah in the 1920s sidestepped Shariah and fostered a brief period of reform, followed by 40 years of royal family–run government that was fairly indulgent, even modern and enterprising, thanks to Western cash for development projects such as the Helmand Valley Authority. The Cold War again placed the country in a tug of war, this time between the Soviets and Americans, resulting in one morass after the other—and it’s still ongoing, exacerbated by the Taliban, al-Qaida, refugees, drugs, corruption and discoveries of mineral wealth.

Lively instruction on how Afghanistan has coped, and continues to cope, with being a strategic flash point.

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-61039-094-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Sept. 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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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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