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)
Masha Gessen is right on with her description of Vladimir Putin and his Regime as a gang of thugs. Hurray for her publicizing this important message which still hasn't gotten through to people at some institutions (IMF, EBRD, UN, World Bank, etc.).
My criticism is that she describes certain oligarchs (Berezovsky, Gusinsky, Khodorkovsky) as being honest businessmen who were wrongfully oppressed. Let's be honest - these oligarchs are no better than Putin himself.
John Christmas, author of "Democracy Society"
•He hunts without a shirt on.
•He takes over the TV station/media and exiles the majority stock holders in order to create his own news.
•The FSB plants bombs in apartment buildings and blames the Chechens (bags of hexagen marked as sugar).
•He hires 7 ambassador-cronies to oversee the various regions and control the voting process.
•He reverts to the former Soviet national song… slash fear-mongering totalitarian state.
•He jokes on Larry King Live about a nuclear submarine that sank during a drill with no rescue attempts, killing 113 Russian sailors.
•He cuddles with dolphins.
•300 hostages (mostly women and children) were killed by federal troops that stormed a school.
•129 hostages were killed post-rescue due to a gas attack by a SWAT team at a Moscow Theatre.
•The dismantling of democracy reaches completion.
•Innumerable Russian journalists, lawyers, and dissenters are imprisoned/exiled and/or killed.
•Polonium murders abound.
•He steals Kraft’s NFL Championship ring.
•And much, much more!
Yes, great perspective on life outside of the USA.
Great narrative; good storytelling.
While it may be a little bias and it's clear the author has strong feelings I found it easy to get past that and enjoyed the book for what it was. Sure, there's some speculation but it's great to hear from a journalist living through history, a very disturbing history that most Americans and world citizens are probably oblivious too (I know I was/am). Very interesting listen and very engaging. All the more so, given current world events.
Very good book - the material was fascinating and well written. At first it seemed silly to hear the narrator switch to her Boris-and-Natasha voice when reading dialogue, but it does work, and eventually becomes disappointing when switches back to non-accented English. I've heard Masha Gessen interviewed and would have rather heard her do the book, but it was still very good.
I liked this, quite a lot, and have listened so some chapters a number of times. Yes, she's a journalist, and there are a number of personal stories, but that makes it interesting. The story of Gary Kasparov's abortive attempt to run, is sad, and emblematic of what's happened.
I like it, though a few of her Russian accents are a tad over-the-top.... But how else is she going to handle it?
It's sad...unremittingly tragic.
I thought some of the other reviewers were unnecessarily tough on this book. It's a Point-of-View.....and doesn't profess to be anything else....
If you want to understand why Putin is helping Syria's Asad by selling him more weapons, and why he's helping Iran, and whether or not he stole Robert Kraft's Super Bowl ring in 2005, read this book. It provides a fascinating look at Putin, from his days as a child to his current role as President of Russia.
The most memorable moment was how Putin behaved when a Russian submarine (the Kursk) sunk. Putin didn't let any foreigners - who had the ability to save the sailors - save the Kursk, and all 118 sailors and officers aboard died.
The book is getting interesting as you go along. I remembered many of the events that were discussed in the book, but got a different perspective of each event as the author explained what really happened, and how Putin influenced, and sometimes controlled the event.
A Must read for everyone who loves history, and who really wants to understand Putin's motives.
I would much rather have read the book. Listening was painful, due to the really terrible performance. The reader did not know Russian, and got almost every single name wrong, which was terribly distracting. She also read all the quotes in an insulting Boris & Natasha accent that set my teeth on edge.For a book like this you MUST have someone who is familiar with the subject matter and who speaks Russian, or knows it well enough to pronounce "Starovoitova" correctly.I spent a lot of time in Russia and know the events described quite well. I like and respect Masha Gessen, and think the book was well written and well researched. But I almost could not finish it given the performance.It did a real disservice to the text.I think it would be worth rerecording, actually.
I loved the description of the Nord-Ost theater siege, an event I lived through from afar. I was very sad, but perversely satisfied, to learn that Masha's research and interpretation, jibed with my own.
Yes, with pleasure, providing the actors knew what they were doing.
The performance ruined the book for me. I will have to buy it on Kindle to be able to enjoy it. I drive quite a bit cross country, and was looking forward to listening to this book on the way. It was such a disappointment.
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 listen to approximately 40 hours of audio books a month. I love audio books.
I've always been fascinated by Russia and Russian history. I firmly believe Russia is heading for another political/social catastrophe and this book only reinforces this belief. Listening to The Man Without A Face helped me better understand the mafia type organisation the Russian gov has now developed into. I feel sorry for the average Russian. On a side note I loved the narrator. Justine Eyre did a fantastic job reading this book. I'm going to watch out for her. Excellent book, thank you Masha!
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.
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