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George F. Kennan was the most celebrated diplomat-intellectual of the 20th century. He was the author of the strategy of containment that the United States adopted for the cold war. He was thought of as a strategist and as these diaries make clear, he spent much of his life thinking about political philosophy. The diaries cover 88 years so Frank Costigliola did a lot of editing to make into a readable format without changing the content. Kennan did not like automobiles, planes or fax machines; I wonder what he would say about all the electronic gadgets we have today. I was most interested in what he wrote in the section of the diaries covering the late 1990’s about not allowing the former USSR countries such as Poland, Hungry, and Ukraine to join NATO. He said these countries must be allowed as a buffer zone between Europe and Russia otherwise Russia would feel threaten and a new cold war would start or possibly a shooting war. Considering what is happening today in the Ukraine no one paid attention to his warning. Toward the end of his life he wrote a book called “Around the Cragged Hill” which he thought was his best work but the world has ignored. In the diary he was most upset about how the book was ignored. He wrote 20 books won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award twice plus many more awards. After he finished his career as a diplomat he was at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study for over 25 years. The diary reveals him to be a brilliant man but also one with problems of loneliness, self-doubt, and suffering from period bouts of depression. He was a gifted writer and his prose shine through even in the diary. I learned a great deal about what happened during the cold war from reading this book, I almost felt overwhelmed by the amount of information provided. I think I will read some of his books now that I know more about the man the books will mean more to me. If you are interested in history this book will interest you. William Dufris did a good job narrating the book. This would be a good book for whisper sync.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
I had to give up listening to this book, as I regretfully could not cope with the narrator's accent and in particular speed. Even though I tried to hear it at a lower speed it didn't work for me.
Kennan is clearly a brilliant and likeable man who from an early age found original and interesting observations to make. Book is well read and the editor of these diaries does a good job. But. The material in the diaries, whilst copious makes for thin fare. Mostly huffing and puffing about the tedium in his life. One neither learns much about the world he lived in nor about Kennan's own life. Compare that with Shirer's brilliant and compelling Berlin diaries.