A remarkably absorbing work that requires close attention—and repays in full.

THE UNDERCURRENTS

A STORY OF BERLIN

An enthralling book about how finding the truth of a city’s story means finding the truth of your own.

Bell, a British American art critic, has lived in Berlin long enough to feel “the undercurrents and the downward pull that seem inseparable from Berlin’s identity.” In this nuanced, layered narrative, she effectively describes that sensation, creating a complex hybrid of the past and present, framed by the history of the “aggravating and interfering” apartment where she lives—in a neighborhood that has been home to artists and Nazis, entrepreneurs and orphans. “I set myself the task,” she notes, “of writing a portrait of the city….The memory of a place does not lie flat on a straight line of time; it is syncretic and simultaneous, layered in thin sediments of event and passage, inhabitation and mood. Walking around Berlin, she has discovered constant reminders—some deliberate, some not—of the rise of the Reich, the arrival and devastation of the war, and the city’s Cold War division. At the same time, Bell examines the difficulties in her own life. This sense of jumping between themes could have resulted in a tangle of confusion, but the author skillfully weaves the narrative threads into an elegant tapestry. Everything she encounters in the city seems to evoke something else. There are connections between the political and the personal, the beautiful and the obscene, the freedom and the self-repression. Bell wonders if the unification of the two parts of Germany, with East Germany being written out of history by a triumphant West, was an unalloyed positive development for Berlin. She sees a city that has become a maze of aggressive architecture and a culture obsessed with housing costs and property speculation. The author ends with a gesture of ambivalence, with Bell deciding to leave her apartment for somewhere “more manageable and less temperamental.” It’s an odd but strangely fitting coda.

A remarkably absorbing work that requires close attention—and repays in full.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-63542-344-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more