: 1900-1914

Through anecdotes and capsule biographies of painters, writers, musicians, scientists, and intellectuals, Cronin (The View from Planet Earth, 1981; Catherine, Empress of All the Russias, 1978, etc.) accounts for that dazzling but doomed culture of Paris during the ``Belle Epoque,'' the period between the Great Exhibition of 1900 and WWI. Believing that artists and intellectuals had immense impact on the ``bourgeois civilization'' that was Paris, Cronin re- creates the ``paradigm for civilized living'' from the philosophy of Boutroux, Blondel, and especially Bergson; from the writings of Gide, Proust, Claudel, PÇguy; from the art of Picasso, Matisse (who ``captured the color and joy of life''), Dufy, Utrillo, Modigliani; from the music of DÇbussy (``his finer gradations of feelings''), the theater of Sarah Bernhardt (``gently mannered comedy''), the science of the Curies and Poincoire, and all the arts associated with and stimulated by Diaghilev and the Russian ballet. Chapters on politics, women (their roles and couturiers), interior design, and technology-especially the French success with cinematography, motorcars, and airplanes-all contribute to a sense of prosperity, confidence, optimism, political liberality, the special quality of esprit Cronin defines as intellectual and spiritual confidence. In a perceptive synthesis of science and art, he notes that ``The Fall...has been reversed by the Flight.'' And while his attempt to identify the contributions of some thinkers is occasionally strained, it is always interesting, especially on Gide's spirituality and Claudel's ``redemptive suffering.'' The real limitation is in his excluding the illiterate (believing that ``literature is at the very center of life'') the provincial, and the poor. Still: an engrossingly vivid, immediate, and informed attempt to find a unified view of a culture that was made up of eccentrics, idiosyncrasy, diversity, and alienation.

Pub Date: April 18, 1991

ISBN: 0-312-04876-9

Page Count: 488

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1991

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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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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...


A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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