An excellent biography, worthy of shelving alongside Francis Wheen’s Karl Marx: A Life (2000).

MARX’S GENERAL

THE REVOLUTIONARY LIFE OF FRIEDRICH ENGELS

A welcome life of Karl Marx’s factotum, benefactor and co-author, who talked a good revolutionary game while living a happily bourgeois life.

The little town of Wuppertal, Germany, where Friedrich Engels was born in 1820, shows little interest in its native son these days. The same holds in great swaths of territory that lay behind the erstwhile Iron Curtain. There, writes Hunt (History/Univ. of London; Building Jerusalem: The Rise and Fall of the Victorian City, 2005), “Engels has become an unknown and unremarkable part of the civic wallpaper.” Perhaps surprisingly to contemporary readers, Engels had a fine head for the details of business and made a considerable fortune in the ascendant years of industrialism. Just as surprisingly, he enjoyed that wealth and the things it bought, not least of them a small army of prostitutes over the years. He was also a great admirer of the eminent conservative writer Thomas Carlyle, who was a noted Germanophile but no socialist. None of these quirks of personality or peccadilloes detracts from Engels’s contributions to socialism, however. After Marx’s death, writes Hunt, Engels modestly gave his friend almost all the credit for that work, saying only, “I cannot deny that both before and during my forty years’ collaboration with Marx I had a certain independent share in laying the foundations of the theory.” Yet Engels’s economic journalism and historical awareness were critical to socialist and communist thought, allowing Marx to arrive at conclusions that seem very modern today—particularly the phenomena of globalism, which the two foresaw a century and a half ago, and modern imperialism, which Engels connected to “class structure.” Hunt’s narrative is lively and consistently engaging—so much so that readers will hardly divine the endless dull patches in works such as Das Capital—and admiring without being uncritical, given how things turned out. Engels was a “Victorian embodiment of self-sacrifice and self-contradiction,” Hunt concludes.

An excellent biography, worthy of shelving alongside Francis Wheen’s Karl Marx: A Life (2000).

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-8050-8025-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2009

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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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