An American Life
On Sale: November 10, 2011
Hardcover / e-Book
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Selected by The New York Times Book Review as a Notable Book
of the Year
Drawing on extensive interviews with George Kennan and
exclusive access to his archives, an eminent scholar of the
Cold War delivers a revelatory biography of its troubled
In the late 1940s, George Kennan wrote two documents, the
"Long Telegram" and the "X Article," which set forward the
strategy of containment that would define U.S. policy toward
the Soviet Union for the next four decades. This achievement
alone would qualify him as the most influential American
diplomat of the Cold War era. But he was also an architect
of the Marshall Plan, a prizewinning historian, and would
become one of the most outspoken critics of American
diplomacy, politics, and culture during the last half of the
twentieth century. Now the full scope of Kennan's long life
and vast influence is revealed by one of today's most
important Cold War scholars.
Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis began this magisterial
history almost thirty years ago, interviewing Kennan
frequently and gaining complete access to his voluminous
diaries and other personal papers. So frank and detailed
were these materials that Kennan and Gaddis agreed that the
book would not appear until after Kennan's death. It was
well worth the wait: the journals give this book a
breathtaking candor and intimacy that match its century-long
We see Kennan's insecurity as a Midwesterner among elites at
Princeton, his budding dissatisfaction with authority and
the status quo, his struggles with depression, his gift for
satire, and his sharp insights on the policies and people he
encountered. Kennan turned these sharp analytical gifts upon
himself, even to the point of regularly recording dreams.
The result is a remarkably revealing view of how this
greatest of Cold War strategists came to doubt his strategy
and always doubted himself.
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