is the editor of Letras Libres and the author of Biography of Power: A History of Modern Mexico, 1810-1996 (Harper Perennial). This essay was translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer. I.The sacralization of history is an ancient practice in Latin America. In the region's Catholic countries, stories of the past, with their heroes and their villains, became instant paraphrases of the Holy Story, complete with martyrologies, holy days, and iconic representations of secular saints.


Night and Cog

The Kindly Ones By Jonathan LittellTranslated by Charlotte Mandell (Harper, 984 pp., $29.99) The Kindly Ones has all the trappings of a Very Important Novel. It is a doorstop: 975 pages (plus appendices) in its English translation, heroically accomplished by Charlotte Mandell. Its cover heralds it as an "international best-seller" (although this cynical American suspects that only in Europe can a book of such bulk and pretension sell nearly a million copies).


Wishin' and Mopin'

Dusty!: Queen of the Postmods By Annie J. Randall (Oxford University Press, 219 pp., $24.95) We do our best to keep up, those of us tottering into the back of The New Republic's book once a fortnight. So I have my work and my life as well as those of my wife and children. I have revenues to raise and taxes to pay. On Super Bowl Sunday, I cared just about enough to watch the game, though I was more certain to watch Chelsea versus Liverpool, live, in the West Coast morning. I hope to read a couple of books a month. I worry, but I like to have time for doing nothing.



I thought I was hearing the heat coming on ticking the pipes but it was a can of paint being shaken, it was a thumb cocked on a nozzle before the word was called into being-- then came the hiss of breath and a name. It was very late and I was up reading, alight on the thumb fly on the wall and did not call the cops on the sound. By Lia Purpura

Becoming France

Children of the Revolution: The French, 1799-1914By Robert Gildea(Harvard University Press, 540 pp., $35) The history of France in the "long nineteenth century" is bookended by slaughter. At one end stand the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, and at the other, World War I, both of which left the country traumatized, exhausted, and grieving for a lost generation. Remarkably, though, these two exercises in exsanguination have failed to overshadow the years in between as heavily as one might expect.


The ideas that keep Hugo Chavez in power.


Slay Them Not

Augustine and the Jews: A Christian Defense of Jews and Judaism By Paula Fredriksen (Doubleday, 512 pp., $35)   I. 'Why and how did relations between Christians and Jews ever become so terrible in the first place?" Medieval Christian theologians thought that the answer to this question, posed in the prologue to Paula Fredriksen's remarkable book, was to be found at the dawn of time. Cain murdered Abel, jealous that his earthly sacrifices were rejected by God in favor of his younger brother's more spiritual ones.


Democracy and Knowledge: Innovation and Learning in Classical Athens By Josiah Ober (Princeton University Press, 362 pp., $29.95)   How does one learn to construct and to lead a republic? Monarchies do not provoke this question, or at least not with the same urgency. When King George III took the throne in Britain in 1760, he had some thirty-three predecessors in England alone, if one goes back only to William the Conqueror, and fifty-odd predecessors if one goes back to Egbert, the first "King of All England," in the ninth century.


The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression By Amity Shlaes (HarperCollins, 464 pp., $26.95) Herbert Hoover By William E. Leuchtenburg (Times Books, 208 pp., $22) Nothing to Fear: FDR's Inner Circle and the Hundred Days that Created Modern America By Adam Cohen (Penguin Press, 372 pp., $29.95) A generation ago, the total dismissal of the New Deal remained a marginal sentiment in American politics. Ronald Reagan boasted of having voted for Franklin Roosevelt. Neoconservatives long maintained that American liberalism had gone wrong only in the 1960s.


All of the old buildings that surround itwith their embellishments,their frills, their flauntings,have turned away, embarrassedby how nakedlyoutside       outside is here.At night especially,nothing is not exposedto whatever it isthat's looking outfrom within the rising of the set backor jutting, many angledbrick and concrete largeto small to smaller openingsthat swallowwhatever light they cast.At Washington and State,the wide brick stairs lead up to wide brick stairsup to the brickedexpanse, the brick field of the benchless plazaedged here and there by lampposts whose lightspotlights the litt