• Human Smoke

  • The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization
  • By: Nicholson Baker
  • Narrated by: Norman Dietz
  • Length: 14 hrs and 12 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (195 ratings)

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Human Smoke

By: Nicholson Baker
Narrated by: Norman Dietz
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Editorial reviews

At the beginning of this production, with its squibs of historical memorabilia, vignettes, diary entries, speech fragments, and the like, one worries that 14 hours of the same might be too much. But soon the shape of Baker's narrative emerges. Drawing mainly on material from the 1930s and '40s, he gives listeners a fresh look at "the good war" and the Holocaust. We hear comments from sources as diverse as Gandhi, Himmler's masseuse, ghetto occupants, and Roosevelt, who, along with Churchill, doesn't come off too well with respect to the events that took place. Norman Dietz doesn't imitate any of the well-known voices. Instead he lets the momentum build naturally, sometimes horrifyingly, sometimes poignantly, until the impact is stronger than it might even be in print.

Publisher's summary

Human Smoke delivers a closely textured, deeply moving indictment of the treasured myths that have romanticized much of the 1930s and '40s. Incorporating meticulous research and well-documented sources---including newspaper and magazine articles, radio speeches, memoirs, and diaries---the book juxtaposes hundreds of interrelated moments of decision, brutality, suffering, and mercy. Vivid glimpses of political leaders and their dissenters illuminate and examine the gradual, horrifying advance toward overt global war and Holocaust.

Praised by critics and readers alike for his exquisitely observant eye and deft, inimitable prose, Baker has assembled a narrative within Human Smoke that unfolds gracefully, tragically, and persuasively. This is an unforgettable book that makes a profound impact on our perceptions of historical events and mourns the unthinkable loss humanity has borne at its own hand.

©2008 Nicholson Baker (P)2008 Tantor

Critic reviews

"Serious and conscientious.... An eloquent and passionate assault on the idea that the deliberate targeting of civilians can ever be justified." (The New York Times)
"This quite extraordinary book---impossible to put down, impossible to forget---may be the most compelling argument for peace ever assembled." (Simon Winchester, author of The Professor and the Madman)