THE ELGIN AFFAIR

THE ABDUCTION OF ANTIQUITY'S GREATEST TREASURES AND THE PASSIONS IT AROUSED

Less concerned with ethics than with narrative, novelist Vrettos (Lord Elgin's Lady, 1982, etc.) chronicles the odyssey of the so-called Elgin Marbles from Athens to London against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars. Vrettos undermines his story's colorful firsthand material, such as diplomatic correspondence and Lady Elgin's letters, by awkwardly adding some novelistic touches with dialogue and scene- setting—superfluous in any case, for the material is colorful enough. Having survived Roman and Gothic invasions of Greece, the works of the ancient sculptor Phidias had fared badly under the Byzantines, Venetians, and Turks before Elgin, a Scottish diplomat obsessed with classical art, absconded with them in 1802. Justifying his right to their removal as negotiated with the Ottoman Porte, Lord Elgin contemptuously observed that ``modern Greeks have looked upon the superb works of Pheidias with ingratitude and indifference. They do not deserve them!'' In many ways, Elgin had more difficulty returning to England than did his loot. Caught at the outbreak of war, he was held hostage in Paris and the Pyrenees, in part because Napoleon wanted the celebrated sculptures for the Louvre. Before Elgin could arrange his return, Byron, who was to die fighting for Greek independence, castigated him as ``the last, the worst, dull spoiler'' of the Parthenon. Elgin came back to England only to find Parliament unenthusiastic about purchasing the treasures for the British Museum. He had to marshall support from the English art community while fending off bankruptcy and divorcing his long-suffering wife for adultery. But while Vrettos has a remarkable story to tell, he does not entirely unearth its characters' odd lives and complex motives. (16 pages b&w illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1997

ISBN: 1-55970-386-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1997

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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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