Stoessinger (Global Diplomacy/Univ. of San Diego; Crusaders and Pragmatists: Movers of Modern American Foreign Policy, 1979, etc.) outlines his progress from childhood in Vienna on the brink of war to Prague, Shanghai, and finally, America and a taste of fame and fortune.
Though the author lost his grandparents to the gas chambers during the Holocaust, he escaped the worst of it, despite the implications of his book’s title. Stoessinger, his mother and stepfather, whom he despised, left Nazi Europe just in time. The young émigré, with the help of caring strangers, attended Grinnell College. Soon, headed for the academic bright lights and Harvard, he left his wife in Iowa. In Cambridge, he associated with the likes of Zbigniew Brzezinski and Henry Kissinger and was eventually noticed as a rising political scientist. Accepting a position at the United Nations, Stoessinger craved further fame and fortune. Despite a distinct fear of marriage, he married again, fathering a daughter. He was also attracted to a fetching world-class swindler. She was his lover for whom, at her instruction, he did many patently stupid favors, which resulted in an indictment as a participant in fraudulent activities. A plea bargain allowed the author to teach prisoners instead of serving time. Released from his marriage’s “banality,” he launched into another passionate liaison, but that didn’t thrive, either. Stoessinger also purports to have been too affected to visit his mother as she endured Alzheimer’s. Though the author offers a few interesting anecdotes, he is often self-congratulatory and engages in excessive name-dropping. The text carries to excess the ration of pride generally granted memoirs, and his egotistical “hope to leave behind a spiritual legacy” to help mankind abandon war rings false.
A picaresque memoir that tells much less than all.