Dickensian in boyhood, Gatsby-esque later on, self-congratulatory throughout.


A new translation of the midcareer memoir by the writer who wrote “The Little Mermaid,” “The Ugly Duckling” and myriads of other fictional and dramatic writings lesser-known outside his native Denmark.

First published in 1855, Andersen’s, unsurprisingly, is more an old-fashioned autobiography than a contemporary memoir. Concerned principally with the exteriors of his life—his financial struggles in boyhood and young manhood, his slow acceptance in the world of Danish letters, his later international celebrity, his extensive travels—the volume says virtually nothing explicit about his love life (though his passion for singer Jenny Lind, the “Swedish Nightingale,” is patent; she didn’t reciprocate, referring to him as her “brother”), his professional work habits or nearly anything emotional. A big exception: his relationship with critics, professional ones and otherwise. Repeatedly, Andersen agonizes about unkind reviews of and negative comments about his work (he quotes at length from some of them)—especially in Denmark, where acceptance came much more slowly than it did in Germany, England and elsewhere. Compensating for this are endless pages of paeans from those who did appreciate his work—from commoners to kings. He quotes lines from flattering letters, reproduces poems others wrote in his honor, and never tires of discussing the high-society parties he attended (many to honor him, of course) and the celebrities who cherished him. Among those were Heinrich Heine, Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens, Franz Liszt, the brothers Grimm and Honoré de Balzac. (His descriptions of Dickens border on the erotic.) Andersen also continually credits God for the good things in his life. The early parts of his account—about penury and struggle and determination and autodidacticism—are far more interesting than the rest, and there is also a dazzling description of his ascent of Vesuvius as it belched flame.

Dickensian in boyhood, Gatsby-esque later on, self-congratulatory throughout.

Pub Date: April 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-907650-57-4

Page Count: 510

Publisher: Dedalus Limited

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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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 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...


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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