RAJIV GANDHI AND RAMA'S KINGDOM

Essays (most originally published in the New Yorker) providing a lucid account of the chaotic course of Indian politics since 1982. Mehta (Up at Oxford, 1993, etc.) tells the colorful story of Indian politics through a series of emblematic tales of envy, intrigue, and betrayal. The cast of characters encompasses Indira Gandhi's family, Congress Party politicians and their clients, and new Sikh and Hindu communalist leaders. With his characteristic attention to detail, Mehta illuminates the significance of the exact words used by Mrs. Gandhi to eject her late son Sanjay's widow, Maneka, from her home, resulting in Maneka's political counterattack; the particular British university degrees that Rajiv Gandhi falsely claimed (both Cambridge and London universities deemed him ``not a suitable candidate for a degree''); and the precise length and width of the enormous Indian paper ballots. The big story is of a country teetering toward collapse as Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi successively lose control of politics, endanger national unity by mishandling regional and religious conflicts, and die at the hands of assassins. Mehta deploys durable Western stereotypes of India to make his story intelligible. Indian women are dependent and helpless; Sikhs are fiery religious extremists; Indian mobs are elemental forces beyond anyone's control. Worst of all for a Western intellectual or tourist, the phones do not work. These exotic defects Mehta links explicitly to India's status as a medieval country where religious fanatics and old-fashioned Congress Party socialists stand in the way of a successful passage to the modern world. Mehta's innocent faith in market forces and progress make a complicated story meaningful but also perpetuate Western anxieties about the alien, unpredictable, and menacing character of modern India. (3 illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-300-06038-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1994

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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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