Students of geopolitics and current affairs would do well to spend time with this book, which, though deceptively slender,...

THE END OF EUROPE

DICTATORS, DEMAGOGUES, AND THE COMING DARK AGE

A journey across the ideological and literal battlegrounds of the Old World, featuring reports full of dire portent.

A specter is haunting Europe: anti-Semitism, nationalism, and all the other tired, old -isms that threaten to crush the ideals of the Enlightenment. In France, a rising right wing threatens to undo continental unity; in Greece, a rising left wing threatens to do the same, adding Grexit and perhaps Frexit to Brexit. Then there are the former Soviet satellites of the East, beset by internal problems and now menaced by a revanchist Russia, acting out with special vehemence in Ukraine. On that note, Foreign Policy Initiative fellow Kirchick observes that during the recent presidential election, there was “an overlap in the aggressive, lewd, trollish Twitter accounts supporting Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and those pushing a pro-Kremlin message.” Then there is Hungary, whose rightist government seemingly wishes to recapitulate the glory days of Miklós Horthy; while the neo-Nazi fringe captures the most attention, “the more insidious menace comes from those wearing a cloak of respectability and who actually hold power.” So it ever was, and so Kirchick, traveling from one hot spot to the next, returns to an overarching and ancient threat. “The sad fact is that, in Europe today, there’s only one group of people who are regularly killed on the basis of their identity,” he writes, adding that when Muslim militants strike there are immediately calls from “right-thinking Europeans” to shun Islamophobia, while there are seldom calls of unity with Europe’s Jews when they are the victims—as they disproportionally are. There is little to cheer in the book, for the author writes that a refragmented Europe, diminished on the world stage if not outright collapsed, “means a more dangerous international state of affairs,” where the tiniest spark could lead to conflagration.

Students of geopolitics and current affairs would do well to spend time with this book, which, though deceptively slender, contains multitudes.

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-300-21831-2

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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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 moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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