A nightmare of crowds, fumes, and restless anger arises from the pages of this disturbing work—dour and long-winded perhaps, but ultimately eye-opening and perceptive. In Bombay, one must first find a place to stay; once that's done, it's possible to make money there. So say several of the Bombay residents with whom Naipaul talks during this exploration of modern India—an attempt to follow up on a yearlong journey he made there in 1962, to understand the changes his parents' native country has experienced since then. The problem of a place to stay in Bombay (or anywhere else in India) is a daunting one: astronomical apartment prices have led to "huts and shanties and rag-structures" that fill the city's nooks and crannies, single rooms housing families often, and miles of stinking slums. Such overcrowding engenders restlessness and sparks of temper—anger that, mixed with an economic climate that has provided some of the most downtrodden with their first taste of ambition and hope, results in an uncontrollable sense of outrage. Freed from the fear of starvation, sects begin to talk of independence and revolution. In the Punjab, terrorist Sikhs stage executions. Across India, low-caste housewives spend precious coins on "Women's Era," a mindless magazine that nevertheless respects their primitive level of existence. "During this transition period," a government minister explains, "we are slowly cutting from the moral ethos of our grandfathers, and at the same time we don't have the westerner's idea of discipline and social justice. At the moment things are chaotic here." Naipaul's book suffers from his own absence—much of it is devoted to recounting the life stories of men he meets—but his summing-up proves typically powerful (and surprisingly optimistic) as he suggests that India's emerging sense of nationhood may ultimately survive these inevitable, multiethnic, "million mutinies."

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1990

ISBN: 0307739732

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1990

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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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