Human Smoke

Human Smoke : The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization

3.99 (1,364 ratings by Goodreads)
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At a time when the West seems ever more eager to call on military aggression as a means of securing international peace, Nicholson Baker's provocative narrative exploring the political misjudgements and personal biases that gave birth to the terrifying consequences of the Second World War could not be more pertinent. With original and controversial insights brought about by meticulous research, Human Smokere-evaluates the political turning points that led up to war, challenging some of the treasured myths we hold about how war came about and how atrocities like the Holocaust were able to happen. Baker reminds us, for instance, not to forget that it was thanks in great part to Churchill and England that Mussolini ascended to power so quickly, and that, before leading the United States against Nazi Germany, a young FDR spent much of his time lobbying for a restriction in the number of Jews admitted to Harvard. Conversely, Human Smokealsoreminds us of those who had the foresight to anticipate the coming bloodshed and the courage to oppose the tide of history, as Gandhi demonstrated when he made his symbolic walk to the ocean. Praised by critics and readers alike for his gifted writing and exquisitely observant eye, Baker offers a combination of sweeping narrative history and a series of finely delineated vignettes of the individuals and moments that shaped history.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 576 pages
  • 129 x 198 x 37mm | 624g
  • Simon & Schuster Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • ed
  • 1847393187
  • 9781847393180
  • 170,114

About Nicholson Baker

Nicholson Baker was born in 1957 and attended the Eastman School of Music and Haverford College. He is the author of several novels, including The Mezzanine, Vox and The Fermata, and House of Holes; and four works of non fiction, U and I, The Size of Thoughts, Double Fold (winner of the 2002 National Book Critics Circle Award), and Human Smoke. He lives in Maine.
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Review quote

"Absolutely fascinating, engrossing. I can't imagine anyone, no matter how knowledgeable about the period, who won't be astonished and moved while reading "Human Smoke,"" -- Daniel Ellsberg, author of "Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers" "Nicholson Baker movingly pierces the lies, hopes, fears, and myths we so easily imbibe on the road to war -- painful reminders that what has happened in the past can happen again and again and again until we shake loose and react." -- Gar Alperovitz, Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy, University of Maryland, and author of "The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb" "In "Human Smoke," Nicholson Baker turns his unrivaled literary talents to pacifism. His portraits of Churchill's imperial arrogance, Franklin Roosevelt's anti-Semitism, the machinations of the arms merchants, the Germans' death wish, and the efforts of pacifists are unforgettable. Baker's book is truly original." -- Chalmers Johnson, president and cofounder of the Japan Policy Research Institute and author of "Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic" "This quite extraordinary book -- impossible to put down, impossible to forget -- may be the most compelling argument for peace ever assembled. Nicholson Baker displays in astonishing, fascinating detail mankind's unstoppable descent into the madness of war -- slowed only occasionally, but then invariably most movingly, by the still, small voices of the sane and the wise." -- Simon Winchester, author of "The Man Who Loved China" and "The Professor and the Madman"
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Rating details

1,364 ratings
3.99 out of 5 stars
5 36% (487)
4 38% (524)
3 18% (242)
2 6% (76)
1 3% (35)
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