Is there a father alive who would not weep at such an artful, tender tribute?

OBLIVION

A MEMOIR

A Colombian writer delivers a rousing, affecting tribute to his father, Héctor Abad Gómez, a professor and physician who was murdered in 1987 by radical political opponents.

Gómez—who, according to the author, had limited skill with his hands and once inadvertently hastened the death of a surgical patient—moved from private practice to become a passionate advocate for public health, in Colombia and elsewhere, and a fiery writer of books, essays and op-ed pieces opposing violence and promoting personal freedom and equality—ideas sure to get you killed in many places. The son adored the father and writes about what in many ways was an ideal, if not idyllic, childhood. Gómez was extraordinarily affectionate and latitudinarian in just about everything. He continually encouraged his son, profoundly patient with him and loved him with a patent preference that in some ways, as the author recognizes, was unfair to the author’s sisters. Abad remembers the conflicts in his family, notably the deeply pious Roman Catholic women who struggled mightily against the father’s more liberal religious views. He also remembers with lingering horror the death of his own talented sister to cancer. The author creates enormous dramatic irony in his text: We know from the beginning that his father will be murdered, so Abad imbues every moment with an aching pathos. The translators have preserved his facile and sophisticated uses of the language. One 205-word sentence, for example, unspools with absolute clarity. Sometimes the detail is grim and wrenching—a sewer pipe clogged with tapeworms, his poor dying sister’s physical decline, his father’s bullet-riddled corpse. One small reservation: a tendency—somewhat understandable—to quote excessively from his father’s publications.

Is there a father alive who would not weep at such an artful, tender tribute?

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-374-22397-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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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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