A literate journey into exotic territory by a traveler with an unusual depth of knowledge. Yemen, whose Arabic name means —the south,— is a mystery even to its neighbors in the Arab world. Tribal, remote, and seemingly inhospitable, it seldom figures in the itineraries of even the most adventurous travelers. When Mackintosh-Smith, a student of Arabic at Oxford, announced to his tutor that he intended to live in Yemen because, he understood, its dialect was the closest living relative of classical Arabic, he was advised to go instead to the safer, and better known, confines of Cairo, Amman, or Tunis. He left in 1982 with the promise to return to his studies soon. Yemen, however, cast its spell—or perhaps it was the qat, the mildly narcotic herbal stimulant whose consumption occupies him over much of his wandering. Mackintosh-Smith guides his readers through what he calls —dictionary land,— by which he means a land whose every expression can mean many things—where, for example, the word qarurah can mean either —the apple of one’s eye— or —urinal,— depending on context and mood. He neither tries to make the exotic overly familiar nor the familiar overly exotic, in the way of so many British literary travelers to the legend-shrouded lands of Arabia Felix. His characters are not the mustachioed bandidos of old, but men who have worked oil rigs, fought civil wars, harvested frankincense and myrrh, and, in one instance, —made a killing in Riyadh, running a juice bar.— And the places he visits do not serve as mere backdrops for the author’s ruminations on the ills of modern life; rather, they are celebrated and assessed for their specific qualities: hot, dusty, endlessly fascinating places with histories that cry out for attention. A vigorous, humorous debut that paints a delightful portrait of a distant land.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-58567-001-4

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1999

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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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