REVOLUTION OF THE MIND

THE LIFE OF ANDRÇ BRETON

This hefty debut biography gives a respectful, impartial account of AndrÇ Breton's (18961966) life and of the movement he founded and led. The eclectic Surrealist alumni include many of the century's most famous artistsDal°, Giacometti, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, Luis Bu§uelmost of whom eventually left the movement's ranks or were expelled, Polizzotti observes, because of ``the conflict between their need to develop freely and Breton's will to maintain a Surrealist cohesion in his own unstable image.'' Born to lower-class parents who encouraged a medical career, Breton began his literary strivings under the influence of Symbolism, the avant-garde poet Apollinaire, and the manic playwright Alfred Jarry. After a fraught association with Dadaism, Breton and his compatriots embarked on Surrealism, drawing on their previous literary experiments and Freud's writings on madness and dreams. Charismatic, cerebral, and autocratic, Breton was dubbed the ``pope'' of Surrealism as its chief organizer and theoretician, and Polizzotti capably, if staidly, recounts the ceremonial sessions of automatic writing, induced slumber, and verbal games like Exquisite Corpse. Breton also engaged in bull-like manifestos and excommunications, such as those of Louis Aragon for joining the Stalinist French Communists and Dal° for independence. This puritanical dogmatism was offset by personal idealism and a lyric streak that expressed themselves in romantic attachments and hero worship. Polizzotti recounts Breton's relations with not only the famous (the unimpressed Freud and the philistine Trotsky) but also the biographically problematicthe enigmatic dandy Jacques VachÇ and the half-mad ``Nadja,'' both of whom Breton mythologized in his work. Surrealism thrived on public outrage, but by the end of WW II it was a spent force, as was Breton. Polizzotti, the editorial director of David R. Godine, is more scrupulous in supplying the external essentials than the inspired madness of Breton's inward experiment. (photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-374-24982-2

Page Count: 600

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1995

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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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