PARIS ON THE EVE

: 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...

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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