The Man Without a Face is the chilling account of how a low-level, small-minded KGB operative ascended to the Russian presidency and, in an astonishingly short time, destroyed years of progress, making his country once more a threat to her own people and to the world.
Handpicked as a successor by the “family” surrounding an ailing and increasingly unpopular Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin seemed like the perfect choice for the oligarchy to shape according to its own designs. Suddenly the boy who had stood in the shadows, dreaming of ruling the world, was a public figure, and his popularity soared. Russia and an infatuated West were determined to see the progressive leader of their dreams, even as he seized control of the media, sent political rivals and critics into exile or to the grave, and smashed the country’s fragile electoral system, concentrating power in the hands of his cronies.
As a journalist living in Moscow, Masha Gessen experienced this history firsthand, and for The Man Without a Face she has drawn on information and sources no other writer has tapped. Her account of how a faceless man maneuvered his way into absolute - and absolutely corrupt - power has the makings of a classic of narrative nonfiction.
©2012 Masha Gessen (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“A thorough account…[Gessen] has written something rare: an accessible book about an unreachable man.” (New York Times Book Review on Perfect Rigor)
“Despite news reports, Putin doesn’t have quite the notoriety he deserves in the West; Gessen should push him to the forefront.” (Library Journal)
I think this is a great introduction to the topic of post-Communist Russia. It's easy to listen to, covering things we have heard about in the headlines, and giving us greater depth and perspective. There is likely bias at work, but it doesn't spoil the overall approach because the evidence of her basic thesis is overwhelming. I picked to listen to it now because, with the Sochi Olympics coming next month and some terrorist attacks happening in Russia, it resonated with me. Putin's response was this: " Putin vows to annihilate "terrorists" after suicide bombings". That comment alone gives the skeleton of his character and then this book puts flesh on the bones. I really enjoyed it. It portrays awful things that happened with enough detail to grasp the ugliness, but not so much that it's depressing and you wish to turn away from it. That's a difficult balance to achieve. I'm still not sure how Masha Gessen stayed alive, but I'm going to listen to the epilogue again and see if there's a clue there...I fell asleep the first time, not from boredom, just late night.
I learned more about Russia's history than I did about how Putin came to power. If I wanted that I would have purchased a Russian history book. it just wasn't what I wanted or expected.
I saw 'The Pagemaster' in elementary school.
Very interesting topic, but the writing is the kind you may want to go into with a glass of water (i.e. because it's a bit dry). But more so than that, I couldn't help but find the narrator's sex kitten vocal fry distracting from the content, though it did bespeak a tone of detached cynicism that I felt goes hand in hand with the futilistic description of Russian corruption.
I listened to the audio and followed along with the print because it was such dense material. I needed a better understanding of Russia in general and this was a wonderful piece to clarify my interest.
Yes, but hopefully with a different narrator.
The author, Masha Gessen. I enjoyed her story and analysis of changes in modern Russian history and how Putin came to power.
Instead of trying hard to fake Russian accent it would be better to focus on correct pronounciation of Russian names and toponyms. It was almost painful to listen at times, despite the excellent qualities of the book itself.
Modern Russia, a story of stolen freedom.
I truly enjoyed the book, Masha Gessen's analysis of recent events in Russia where I spent a lot of time and lived through Perestroika years. Masha Gessen became one of my favorite authors. I would recommend a different narrator though since fake Russian accent and incorrectly pronounced names and toponyms distract from enjoying this excellent book.
It is compelling nonfiction - a very interesting look at post Kruschev Soviet/Russian history and the rise of Putin - "the man without a face."
Lenin's Tomb - by David Remnick - a story of post- Lenin Russia. A more comprehensive book than "Man with out a Face." And more compelling, but in the same ilk.
She does adequate characterizations, but the book doesn't require more than adequate. Her voice is a little hoarse and grating at times, but the narration overall is fine.
The book gives another aspect of post-Soviet Russia - and shows how the soviet legacy of power politics and the crushing of dissent have survived the "fall" of the iron curtain.
A very good read for anyone who wishes to see beyond the minimal press coverage of Russia since the 1990's. Also a stark warning to those who see Russia and Russian politics as a benign force to be ignored.
I had recently finished Steve Coll's detailed and meticulously researched book on the Bin Laden family history and purchased this book hoping for something along those lines for Putin.
Boy was I disappointed, far from a informative account of Putin, his rise and the internal structures of power in Russia, what I got instead was a weird jumble of semipersonal feelings about that period and remminances about her life and her friends under Putin's political rule. What I liked about Coll was his ability to write an objective narrative about the Bin Ladens without any sort of emotional judgement, this was not the case for this book.
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