A political footnote to a literary legacy.

ALGERIAN CHRONICLES

In a manner less literary than journalistic but more personal than political, the Nobel Prize–winning existentialist argues for a liberal middle ground between French imperialism and the independence of his native Algeria.

More than a half-century after the Algerian War and the independence that Camus ambivalently resisted, the first English translation of his volume of writings on the period (a book largely ignored or disdained upon its initial French publication) is less interesting today for the specifics of the polarized tension there than for its timeless musings on torture, terror, assimilation and extremism. The anti-independence French accused the Algerian Muslims of savagery. Those who were pro-revolution believed that there was no room for the colonial occupiers in an independent Algeria. As a French liberal who considered himself a moderate between those extremes, Camus had boundless sympathy for the plight of impoverished Algerians, yet he felt that independent rule by a Muslim majority would be a catastrophe for those (like himself) who were French but had deep roots in Algeria. Ultimately, his writing represents a moral plea for an idealism beyond politics. He maintains: “We are condemned to live together.” “It is as if madmen inflamed by rage found themselves locked in a forced marriage from which no exit was possible and therefore decided on mutual suicide.” He also insists that regardless of how “old and deep the roots of the Algerian tragedy are, one fact remains: no cause justifies the deaths of innocent people.” However his words were received at the time and the crisis he addressed resolved itself, his thoughts on ends justifying means and on civilian casualties for some political purpose seem prophetic.

A political footnote to a literary legacy.

Pub Date: May 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-674-07258-9

Page Count: 154

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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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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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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