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George F. Kennan

An American Life

George F. Kennan by John Lewis Gaddis
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Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award

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 mastermind.

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 sweep.

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.

This is a landmark work of history and biography that reveals the vast influence and rich inner landscape of a life that both mirrored and shaped the century it spanned.

Penguin Publishing Group; November 2011
800 pages; ISBN 9781101548103
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Title: George F. Kennan
Author: John Lewis Gaddis
  • News
George F Kennan - Financial Times
Fri, 18 Nov 2011 14:07:48 -0800
George F KennanFinancial TimesAs John Lewis Gaddis, his biographer, puts it, Kennan “opened up a way out: a path between the ...
George F. Kennan: Biography of a Bureaucrat - Patheos (blog)
Mon, 06 May 2013 05:28:22 -0700
Patheos (blog)George F. Kennan: Biography of a BureaucratPatheos (blog)George F. Kennan: A Life is a perfect match between ...
Edith Pearlman, John Lewis Gaddis win book critics' prizes - CBS News
Fri, 09 Mar 2012 07:47:24 -0800
CBS NewsEdith Pearlman, John Lewis Gaddis win book critics' prizesCBS NewsHistorian John Lewis Gaddis won the biography ...