Gripping, disturbing stories of life under an oppressive yet wildly popular autocrat.



Memorable portraits of Russians living under Vladimir Putin.

In his first book, New Yorker Moscow correspondent Yaffa begins with Yuri Levada, a pioneering sociologist whose massive survey during the collapse of communism showed plummeting enthusiasm for a strong leader, desire for an honest appraisal of their nation’s history, and more personal responsibility. He concluded that the passive if wily “Soviet Man” was disappearing in favor of a self-reliant individual yearning for freedom. In 2000, Levada reversed himself. Following the disastrous 1990s, Russians welcomed Putin, and they continue to give him approval ratings of over 80%. This is in “no small measure a product of the state’s monopolistic control over television, the media with the widest reach, and its squelching of those who would represent an alternative.” After this introduction, Yaffa delivers eight long, engrossing New Yorker–style profiles. One of the most significant of these figures is Konstantin Ernst, head of Channel One, Russia’s largest TV network. “Even as Channel One faithfully transmits the Kremlin’s line,” writes the author, “it does so with a measure of professionalism and restraint” and demonstrates genuine creativity in apolitical areas such as culture and history. Among Yaffa’s other powerful portraits are those of a saintly doctor who became a national hero caring for children during the gruesome Russian-Ukraine insurgency but found herself roped into endorsing the Russian side in a war she hated; a patriotic Russian entrepreneur in Crimea who despised living under the inefficient, corrupt Ukrainian government—while he rejoiced at Putin’s takeover, he discovered that life was harder under a more efficiently corrupt Russia; and a human rights crusader who, frustrated at her impotence, took a job in the government human rights office, a largely ceremonial position that now and then allows her to do a good deed.

Gripping, disturbing stories of life under an oppressive yet wildly popular autocrat.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-52-476059-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Tim Duggan Books/Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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