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Long Shadows: Truth, Lies, and History [Paperback]

By Erna Paris (Author)
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Item description for Long Shadows: Truth, Lies, and History by Erna Paris...

Winner of the Pearson Writers' Trust Non-Fiction Prize, the inaugural Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for political writing, and the Dorothy Shoichet Prize for History from the Canadian Jewish Book Awards. One of the most urgent issues facing the world today is how countries shape historical memory in the aftermath of calamity, making decisions that cast long shadows into the future. Combining gripping storytelling with sharp observation, Erna Paris takes us on an extraordinary journey through four continents to explore how nations reinvent themselves after cataclysmic events. She travels through the United States, with its long-buried memory of slavery; to South Africa, where the Truth and Reconciliation Commission struggles to heal the wounds left by apartheid; to Japan, France, and Germany, where the unresolved pain of Hiroshima and the Holocaust still resonate; and to the former Yugoslavia, where she exposes the cynical shaping of historical memory. Through its insightful analysis, Long Shadows compels us to question where we stand as individuals in relation to our own collective histories.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Bloomsbury USA
Pages   496
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7.74" Width: 5.07" Height: 1.29"
Weight:   1.4 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   May 31, 2002
Publisher   Bloomsbury USA
ISBN  1582342105  
ISBN13  9781582342108  

Availability  0 units.

More About Erna Paris

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! ERNA PARIS lives in Toronto.

Erna Paris currently resides in Toronto. Erna Paris was born in 1938.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > Jewish > Holocaust
2Books > Subjects > History > World > General

Reviews - What do customers think about Long Shadows: Truth, Lies, and History?

Beware of Standing in the Shadows One Describes  Jun 30, 2008
"It is now a truism (although it didn't used to be) that every revolution of history inevitably distorts because it is the product of an individual researcher's choices, emphases and points of view." With this caveat on page 322 (hardback edition), Erna Paris masterfully describes her own dilemma in writing this book.

As a Jewish historian, Ms. Paris begins with the Holocaust and Germany and, inevitably using this as both yardstick and bottom line, begins to analyze selected targets of liberal wrath, those violators of "Western values" of tolerance and human rights. All the politically correct villains of the 1990s are here: Holocaust deniers, Serbs, Japanese who bewail Hiroshima while denying the Rape of Nanking, white racists in South Africa and the Mississippi Delta.

Conspicuously absent are others that could also well serve as examples of mythology and its deadly effects on the living. For one, the founding myths of Zionism, in deadly link to the ongoing repression and war of the Occupied Terr - well, you know where I mean. This particular choice might pull a few more bricks out of Holocaust mythology, as officially interpreted by Israel, than even Ms. Paris might dare. The shadow of truth, lies and history over Northern Ireland might have been raised; but as a Canadian subject of the British Commonwealth Ms. Paris might have felt that example wouldn't clearly demonstrate the superiority of Western values. True also, I suppose, for Central America, where the shadow of past injustices lingered long in present-day violence - helped along by "the West." Well, then, the Hindu-Moslem communal violence of India might also have been a fitting choice, but too culturally remote for demonstrating the human universality of Western values. Yes, there's just too many of these darn examples out there, so better to stick with those that give the author the high ground.

But a high ground has value only when an author doesn't use it for a urinal. Typical of Ms. Paris' approach is her 1990s demonization of Serb myth-makers and Slobodan Milosevic. Repeating all the cliches of Serb villainy and touting the West's moral irreproachability (the Rambouillet negotiations merely "failed," with no explanation as to why), our virtuous selves were left no choice but to finally bomb to demonstrate our commitment to tolerance and human rights. The fact that Serb mythology, especially regarding Kosovo, is a virtual template for Israel's take on Jerusalem and the West Bank is noted but ritually ridiculed. One should expect such shallow convenience from popular scribes, as well as ignorance of the Balkans: atrocities in the 90s were not some throwback to the Nazi era, to be conveniently explained by Holocaust terminology, but to the Balkan Wars of 1912-13, where the same tribal passions and bloody deeds were enacted and recorded by Western observers deserving far more recognition than Ms. Paris' one-dimensional effervescence.

To her credit, however, Ms. Paris does take on the "Goldhagen Thesis" of German collective responsibility for the Holocaust, treating it as self-righteous posturing that only descredits Holocaust survivors and their sponsors. (However, if Ms. Paris' address to an audience of survivors carried the same smug tone evidenced throughout her book I can see why they virtually egged her off the podium.) Exploitation of the Holocaust for personal axe-grinding and political gain are certainly to be decried. So is an oblivious inability to apply the lessons learned to one's own and one's self.
Not quite what it purports to be  Apr 23, 2006
My initial impression was that this was going to be a serious work about historiography. Instead, it is more of a personal journey to confront the issues of guilt, memory, and reconciliation. Yes, there are many thought-provoking interviews and recollections, but the author is clearly too close to the subject and it affects her objectivity at times. I was hoping for a more serious study. It's not bad for what it is, however, its just more of an Oprah's Book Cub book and less of a book you might want for, say, a graduate school course.
Confronting the Wrenching , and Doing It Very Well Indeed  Jul 18, 2002
Ms. Paris writes with the immediacy of a novelist and the analytical qualities of a philosopher. She is clearly enormously intelligent, well-read, introspective, synthetic in the best sense, and probing. I would not call her analysis of the experiences of memory and history optimistic; on many levels, it is starkly cynical. I would call it fascinating and deep, not only from the many interviews she did but from the background research that informs them. Her treatments of Germany, Japan, South Africa, the United States, the Balkans, and the issues of UN tribunals and international criminal jurisprudence are balanced, percipient, and compelling. She is a voice for dogged determination in the process of incrementally improving our species and its approach to conflict, against the culture of silence and looking the other way, against atrocity with impunity. Read her. Find motivation in her stories. Then act as best you can to further a better and different world. Humanity is, and always will be, a work in progress. Ms. Paris contributes mightily to an appreciation of the costs, tradeoffs, and nuances that entails.
A Book For Our Times  Sep 24, 2001
Erna Paris has done something very important: gone behind the scenes of the usual historical process, and met with people directly affected by the horrid events in Nazi Germany, Hirohito's Japan, apartheid-era South Africa, Vichy France and the disintegrated Yugoslavia. It's a personal history, but it works perfectly, because she asks the right questions and pursues the truth among the legends and fairy tales we have been told about these homicidal, genocidal regimes.

If you're fed up with the usual 'names and dates' types of history, and the 'just so' stories they convey, dig into this book. You're sure to be surprised at every turn. Seriously, you can't go wrong, if you're looking for an insight into how history is rewritten to fool us.

probing analysis of how nations cope with past tragedies  Jul 23, 2001
Having just caught the author on C-SPan2, I was motivated to comment on this very important book. Paris, a Canadian, has made a career out of examining, often with great inisght and sensitivity, the impact of tragic historical events on future generations within afflicted generations and she doles out her compassion equally to the children of victims as well as to the children of oppressors who seem to carry a blood-guilt down through the generations. Her specialty has been covering and analyzing the impact of WWII but this book covers that ground and more in the area of Slavery, Apartheid, The Rape of Nanking and more. Her conclusions are much what you'd expect but that's no reason to avoid this book. The strength in her writing is conveying a very personal involvement with her subjects, permitting us as readers to get to "know their pain" (to use an overemployed but apt phrase) and see all the survivors as human in their frailty and in their need to find some way to live with the past. She shows us that there is an entire range of coping mechanisms in dealing with atrocities from total official denial as in Japan to spasms of grief as in Germany. In between are nations just beginning to acknowledge their painful pasts and trying to find their own way of putting those memories to rest while still keeping the message of past lessons. She stresses the need for a system of Justice to bring out the truth or nontruth of events so that groups of people can know and accept the truth. I feel she makes an accurate case that where this no accounting, there is very little healing. I found most fascinating her description of her meeting with a Hiroshima survivor and what that revealed about a specific culture predicting how a nation might choose to react to discussions of the past. This is a fine effort and one worth handing to any Highschool age student who is far too young to have experienced any fallout from the tragedies discussed. In light of all the World War II Revivalism going on and with HBO's upcoming BAND OF BROTHERS dealing with the European theater, this work would make a nice supplemental reading requirement.

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