Monday, December 26, 2011

An admirable life

I spent most of Christmas Day supine on the couch, reading John Gaddis's fine biography of George Kennan, 1904-2006. What a life! Kennan not only lived through most of the great events of the 20th Century--and influenced some of them--but lived long enough to look back at them from the vantage of the 21st Century, a privilege granted to very few. (As it happens, I have a friend in Camarillo, California, who was 101 last summer, and likewise has a remarkable view of the world's recent history.)

Mr. Gaddis's specialty is the Cold War, and I was assigned his books during the three years I was enrolled in the War in the Modern World 'programme' at King's College London. He became Kennan's authorized biographer thirty years before the great man's death, on the one condition that it would not be published during Kennan's lifetime, a provision that gave their friends reason to wonder, as the decades went by, which man would survive the other. Not to worry! Nature took its course, and the book is in our hands at last: George F. Kennan: An American Life. Merry Christmas! -- Dan Ford

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