THE CRUEL PEACE: Everyday Life and the Cold War by Fred Inglis

THE CRUEL PEACE: Everyday Life and the Cold War

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An ambitious and engaging attempt to capture the elusive essence of a half-century of confrontation on the brink of the nuclear abyss. ""The cold war has been an extraordinary show to watch,"" Inglis (Education/Univ. of Warwick) says here, covering, conversationally and ingeniously, the full range of the spectacle--from politics to science to art. Following a roughly chronological order, the author organizes his heavily anecdotal history into rotating sections of ""Biography,"" ""Events,"" and ""Fictions,"" beginning with a brief and dramatic ""biography"" of Frank Thompson, a quintessentially brave English intellectual killed as a result of Soviet indifference during the last days of WW II: ""The long fingers of the first moments of the cold war had reached out from Moscow and chilled Frank Thompson."" Next come the ""events"" of ""The Casting of the Iron Curtain, 1945-47"" (Beria's reign of terror, George Kennan's design for American anti-Soviet policy, the birth of the atomic bomb), and then, several more ""events"" and a ""biography"" of Kennan later, Inglis's first ""fictions"": a lively meditation on ""righteousness"" and the movies and novels--The Magnificent Seven, Animal Farm, etc.--that ""taught that the American way of life, its fine independence and manly self-reliance, is the only meritorious way in a world of bad guys...."" Following this are ""events"" such as the Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Poland's Solidarity, etc.; ""fictions"" dealing with ""loyalty and lying"" (spy films) and ""mistrust"" (All the President's Men, Gorky Park), etc.; and ""biographies"" of Freeman Dyson, Philip Agee, Joan Didion, etc. Finally, Inglis frames his patchwork tapestry in black, concluding that the ultimate engine for the cold war was ""prejudice, rigid fearfulness, ignorance, and superstition."" A fresh and vigorous synthesis that humanizes the harsh march of history.

Pub Date: Nov. 25th, 1991
Page count: 475pp
Publisher: Basic Books