A pleasing mix of epic sweep and meticulous research.

THE CROSSROADS OF CIVILIZATION

A HISTORY OF VIENNA

A new history of an important global capital.

Robertson, a member of the Scottish Parliament, spent much of his pre-parliamentary career as a journalist in Vienna, and he clearly loves the city. Surprised to find that there was no comprehensive account of the city’s history, he decided to write one. In this book, he chronicles that history, from the city’s beginnings as a Roman frontier fort to the present. For centuries, the city was the key bulwark against Islamic expansion into Europe, and Robertson recounts the numerous battles and sieges. He notes that Vienna, always famous for its bakeries, invented the croissant to mark a victory over an invading army, with the shape representing the crescent on Muslim flags. Vienna has always been a magnet for cultural influences from all over Europe, and it gradually evolved into the powerful capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Robertson leads readers through the labyrinthine politics associated with the city and notes the many famous figures—Mozart, Freud, Hitler, Stalin, Mahler, Klimt—who lived there at one time or another. In the aftermath of World War I, the empire disintegrated, but Vienna remained a crucial pivot point for the region. A dark period began when the Nazis invaded in 1938—and were largely welcomed. After World War II, Vienna was occupied by the Soviets and the Allies, and it was a whirlpool of Cold War espionage for a decade. The Russians left in 1955 after the Austrian government declared permanent neutrality. Even now, Austria is not a part of NATO. Robertson does a good job of keeping the complicated narrative straight, although the book is decidedly top-down history. Some readers may view it as essentially a procession of aristocrats, grandees, and diplomats. Nonetheless, the author is knowledgeable and has many interesting insights.

A pleasing mix of epic sweep and meticulous research.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-63936-195-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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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 concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

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ON JUNETEENTH

The Harvard historian and Texas native demonstrates what the holiday means to her and to the rest of the nation.

Initially celebrated primarily by Black Texans, Juneteenth refers to June 19, 1865, when a Union general arrived in Galveston to proclaim the end of slavery with the defeat of the Confederacy. If only history were that simple. In her latest, Gordon-Reed, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and numerous other honors, describes how Whites raged and committed violence against celebratory Blacks as racism in Texas and across the country continued to spread through segregation, Jim Crow laws, and separate-but-equal rationalizations. As Gordon-Reed amply shows in this smooth combination of memoir, essay, and history, such racism is by no means a thing of the past, even as Juneteenth has come to be celebrated by all of Texas and throughout the U.S. The Galveston announcement, notes the author, came well after the Emancipation Proclamation but before the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Though Gordon-Reed writes fondly of her native state, especially the strong familial ties and sense of community, she acknowledges her challenges as a woman of color in a state where “the image of Texas has a gender and a race: “Texas is a White man.” The author astutely explores “what that means for everyone who lives in Texas and is not a White man.” With all of its diversity and geographic expanse, Texas also has a singular history—as part of Mexico, as its own republic from 1836 to 1846, and as a place that “has connections to people of African descent that go back centuries.” All of this provides context for the uniqueness of this historical moment, which Gordon-Reed explores with her characteristic rigor and insight.

A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-883-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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