Christopher Coker

How to Fight a Cold War

George Kennan: A Study in Character

By

Yale University Press 207pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

‘We are a nineteenth century people. Our minds are our great, great mother’s minds. We aren’t a twentieth century people. Our ideas are inherited ideas.’ (Dean Acheson, This Vast External Realm)

In 1989 George Kennan was eighty-five years old. His prestige had reached its zenith. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The head of the Soviet Union recognised him as one of the architects of a Cold War order that was fast coming to an end. Kennan, modest as ever, took little or no interest in this adulation. He saw something else, writes his biographer John Lukacs: that he was a man of a century – the twentieth, which was now irredeemably past. ‘I was ten years old in 1914, and eighty-five in 1989,’ he wrote at the beginning of yet another book, At a Century’s Ending. ‘While each of the last few centuries of European history seemed to have a certain specific character of its own,’ the twentieth century was a short one. It began with the First World War and ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Neville never shed his sense of being the junior, and perhaps least-deserving Chamberlain.' From the archive, Mic… ,
    • 'The erecting and immediate destruction of a series of straw men rather detracts from what is for the most part an… ,
    • RT : A magnificent demolition job on this "acid laced tirade...unpleasantly self-obsessed...self pitying polemic...book… ,
    • 'Seventy years on, the time we have left to gather such first-hand testimony is running out.' John Keay on the sig… ,
    • The author 'seethes with contemptuous indignation at the shiny junk that an unregulated construction industry dumps… ,
    • 'The physical courage he demonstrated as a young man [...] gave way to intellectual power; radical thought, gifted… ,
    • 'While Jane Austen didn’t perhaps achieve the full recognition that she deserved in her lifetime, even then she out… ,