Accessible roundup of the evolution of modern Latin American political thought via the lives and convictions of key leaders and writers.

Mexican journalist and editor Krauze (Mexico: Biography of Power, 1997, etc.) shapes his work through an engaging mixture of biography and historical currents in the style of Isaiah Berlin or Edmund Wilson, thus allowing lay readers to follow what can sometimes be for the English reader a dizzying succession of revolutions, doctrine and caudillos. The author proceeds more or less chronologically, from the late 19th century to the present, from the lives of four prophets—the four Josés (Martí, Rodó, Vasconcelos and Mariátegui) through poet Octavio Paz, popular icons Eva Perón and Che Guevara, novelists Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa and present-day Venezuelan hero à la Bolivar, Hugo Chávez. In Martí, a Cuban-born New Yorker journalist advocating for Cuban independence, Krauze traces the beginnings of Latin American disenchantment with American-style freedom when the U.S. defeated Spain in 1898. The Generation of ’98 was galvanized by work such as Rodó’s Ariel, which reversed ongoing racist, imperialist theories by asserting the superiority of Latin American culture “over the mere utilitarianism espoused by the Caliban of the North.” Rodó’s emphasis on the education of youth, Vasconcelos’s fashioning of the Mexican foundation myth and Mariátegui’s affirmation of Peruvian indigenous culture and pride set the stage for the next generation’s Marxism ideology and revolution. While the poetry of Nobel Prize winner Paz would reflect both his sympathy for communism and later disillusionment with the Soviet Union, the sweeping prose of García Márquez and Vargas Llosa took on the mythopoesis of the dictator and revolutionary. Charismatically tragic figures like Perón and Guevara fulfilled themes of Christian martyrdom, while the postmodern Chávez reignites the cult of the leader, despite the promising evolution of electoral democracy in all of Latin America. Krauze demystifies for his North American neighbors the crucial ideas that have shaped Latin America and rendered it distinct from the United States.


Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-621473-3

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2011

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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