George F. Kennan: An American Life

John Lewis Gaddis, Author
John Lewis Gaddis. Penguin, $39.95 (800p) ISBN 978-1-59420-312-1
Reviewed on: 08/15/2011
Release date: 11/01/2011
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No one is better suited than Gaddis to write this authorized biography of George F. Kennan: the noted Yale cold war historian had total access to Kennan’s papers as well as to his family members and associates—Kennan so trusted his biographer that he remarked, “write [the book], if you will, on the confident assumption that no account need be taken of my own reaction... either in this world or the next.” Through his privileged relationship with Kennan, Gaddis reveals the man behind the public persona as an agonized and fragile individual who often felt alienated from the U.S. and his fellow citizens, despite his tireless service to his country. In addition to the intimacies of the work, Gaddis offers critical analyses of Kennan’s key roles as diplomat, policy maker, and scholar of Russian history. Unsurpassed in his strategic vision during the cold war, Kennan is credited with being responsible for much of America’s eventual victory, and therein lies the impetus behind this remarkable biography. Adroitly managed (if occasionally barnacled with extraneous facts), Gaddis’s work is a major contribution to Kennan’s legacy and the history of American foreign policy. (Nov.)
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