Exactly as the title says. Two biographies of Charlemagne, written in the 9th century.
Einhard's story is direct, precise, and lists the man's achievemExactly as the title says. Two biographies of Charlemagne, written in the 9th century.
Einhard's story is direct, precise, and lists the man's achievements and wars in order. It's like an encyclopedia entry, and all the more remarkable that we have something like it from someone who knew the man.
Notker the Stammerer's account, written a few decades later, somehow has a more personal account. He lists anecdotes, not military campaigns, and he ventures out of chronological order. Charlemagne of course is shown as being just, charitable, and a bridge-builder as a godly king should be, but he has a penchant for humiliating uppity nobles and astonishing his friends. ...more
A so-so work of popular history, which relies upon secondary sources, wandering around in search of a central idea, but the writing moves with a steadA so-so work of popular history, which relies upon secondary sources, wandering around in search of a central idea, but the writing moves with a steady clip.
The main thread of Winik's argument insinuates that FDR's failing health prevented him from taking the strategic decisions necessary to save civilian lives. He bemoans the lack of an 'Emancipation Proclamation' moment, which would have give the war a moral dimension and a stated direct means to accomplish it. This happened as ground troops discovered the camps, but he asserts this should have happened earlier, as early witnesses shared their story (the story of the Vrba-Wetzler Report is told with stunning detail).
The book's narrative culminates in the 1944 decision whether or not the US Army Air Force would bomb Auschwitz, as a desperate attempt to prevent further mass killing. Winik makes desperate and fantastical assertions on the state of 'precision bombing' at the time and aerial photography, saying that studying grainy black-and-white images could 'see the tattoos on the prisoners' arms'. Then, as now, air power would not be enough. Disregarding the that the camps were only one part of the Holocaust. Disregarding that mass death continued even continued as late as Spring 1945.
But Winik still asks the important question - did we do enough? Here I'd agree with him - of course not! The Holocaust still happened. The war effort was a necessary and justified thing, and hundreds of thousands of European refugees and other 'displaced persons' came here after the war, and our taking them in was a necessary imperative (despite what anti-Semitic propaganda said about their incompatibility with Western culture); and for them it was a thin line between here and hell. But compared to the abyss of human suffering, this was not ever enough. ...more
A thorough and damning re-evaluation of the life of Herr Speer, casting him as an amoral bureaucrat and ambitious political climber, in contrast to hiA thorough and damning re-evaluation of the life of Herr Speer, casting him as an amoral bureaucrat and ambitious political climber, in contrast to his vague admissions of guilt post-war. Directly implicates him in the Nazi use of slave labor and the forced relocation of Jews in Berlin. Makes the case that the Nazi state was more built upon middle-class climbers like Speer, instead of the screeching fanatics of the party. If Mr. Kitchen was at Nuremberg in 1945, Speer would have been marched to the gallows.
This is the first printing of the book, and has some egregious errors - I see the misspelling Hitlar on page 57. ...more
In reading the 'Neapolitan series' of Elena Ferrante, I am constantly reminded of the clear influence of 19th-century realism Slum, Naples, Italy, 1947
In reading the 'Neapolitan series' of Elena Ferrante, I am constantly reminded of the clear influence of 19th-century realism - description of ordinary or familiar events as they are, with digressions into political events or societal norms to fill in the background. But the ordinary or real does not mean the banal.
One could reasonably say that this is series of war novels. It speaks without bombast or pretensions, and describes, with precise and subtle prose, a war of attrition. This war is one of slow-burning family arguments with no real end even after long bouts of shouted insults, of the slow suffocation social roles telling you what you must and must not be. There is a code word spoken very early in the first volume which tipped me off to the later developments of the rest of the book, when the two girls talk about Little Women. But how would it be possible for one of them to be both a woman and a writer?
This volume, as all the others, deals with social aspirations and the cycle of poverty - how dare you want to be like them, to go to university, to write a book, do you think you're better than us? Elena's mother, with her crooked leg and frail body, is a driver for her to escape, a shambling phantom behind her, a symbol of the deformations of the past.
Each of the four volumes has an established theme: the development of resentment and friendship in childhood, the limitations of social boundaries, the compromises and confinements of marriage, and the establishment of regrets in old age. Of course these are not four discrete topics, but they build upon each other, as one's life builds upon experiences of the past. Little elements or details which might not seem like much in the beginning are the foundations of emotional triumphs and resentments. And of course the author is not so blunt as to just tell you such a thing happened, but to show individual reactions, facial expressions, choices in words, who talks to who and who avoids who. The implications are the thing.
I feel like I've said too much and too little already. I very seldom say this, but this is a series I will read again. ...more