INVISIBLE ALLIES

A portion of Solzhenitsyn's memoir, The Oak and the Calf (1980), that could not be published originally because it reveals his allies in the Soviet Union and how he managed to get his writings out of the country. Solzhenitsyn was convinced from the first of the importance of what he was writing and of its ability to hurt the communist system. Here he gives us some idea of the desperate energy with which he worked. Of The Gulag Archipelago he writes, "It even seemed as if it was no longer I who was writing; rather, I was swept along, my hand was being moved by an outside force." But he also makes it clear that his efforts would have been fruitless without the many people (he mentions more than 100 by name) who, at risk to their freedom, their careers, and in some cases their lives, worked selflessly to help him. He tells of the fear that ruled their days and the precautions that became part of their being; of the ways in which they typed, hid, and ultimately spirited abroad the various manuscripts that then burst upon the world. He is particularly interesting in his analysis of his appeal to the public at large, which in the late 1960s was almost complete, such was the revulsion against the system; he lost much of his popularity as his own aims, including his religious feelings, became more apparent. He chronicles his initial ignorance of Western journalism and his slowly growing comprehension as to how journalists could help in his struggle against the Soviet Union. But for all its heroism and insight, of all Solzhenitsyn's books this may be the least satisfactory: His respect for those who helped him and his own reticence on personal matters join to make it perhaps the closest thing he has ever written to socialist realist odes to heroic tractor drivers.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1995

ISBN: 1887178422

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1995

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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