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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 ...Show synopsisAt 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 Smoke re-evaluates the political turning points that led up to war and in so doing challenges 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 Smoke also reminds 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 -- for which he was immediately imprisoned by the British. 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 that is guaranteed to spark new dialogue on the subject.Hide synopsis
Human Smoke is an excellent readable book about all aspects of WWII. Due to its organization using short sections to inform the reader about specific events of the war it does not overload with the many dates,names and places related to the war.It is addictive reading presented in a manner that allows the reader to fully assimilate the material.
Baker's Human Smoke is not a narrative, I agree. It is, however, history unraveled to show the interstices where peace, negotiation, relocation, reconciliation, mediation, might have altered the outcomes of various economic, ethnic, and political debacles,in a manner that may have averted Total War. It took many decisions and much strategy for Total War to become reality. The reality is that Hitler was not a viable world leader, and that his ideas were poisonous to humanity and civilization. The question that Nicholson's book asks, and rightly so, is was carpet bombing the population of Germany the only way to "defeat" Hitler and his ideologues, or was there another way? Or many ways? War is almost always avoidable, and if war does break out, it is always potentially containable, and and always endable. All wars end, the only question is when. But, great chances must be taken for peace to take hold and prevail. Peace might have lead to a scenario where endangered populations were no less dead, but it is not as likely as the scenario that played out, and where they ended up dead, along with countless other millions just as innocently caught up in the madness of their leaders. Nicholson's inclusion of the many intellectual and political leaders who worked,argued, prayed, hoped, and died for peace, reintroduces to the history of that era many valuable and forgotten voices for peace, such as Rufus Jones and Christopher Isherwood, and countless others from all nations and walks of life, whose voices have been wiped out in the hero-worshiping "narrative" of World War II that has become the accepted and seemingly inevitable, linear history. Let's do away with that narrative for a bit, and let the voices of peace, reason and civilization be heard for a change, even though the "story" may sound incoherent and unusual to our unaccustomed ears. Now, go ahead and read Chris Hedges.
The blurb says that this book is a "narrative." Whatever else it may be, it is not that. It consists of disjointed paragraphs, one after another, with no transitions. It is more a collection of anecdotes, designed to convince us that one of America's greatest accomplishments, the defeat of fascism, was wrong. Just a reminder: Japan attacked the United States, Germany and Italy declared war on us. The Axis powers intended to (and suceeded in) murdering a great portion of the world's population, and enslaving a great part of the rest. If you were Jewish, Gypsy, black, handicapped, gay, Polish, Russian, Czech, Slovak, Serbian, British, French, Northern Irish, American, Chinese, Korean, liberal, social-democrat, communist, or ordinary conservative the Axis powers had you in their gun sights or their bomb sights. How quickly we forget!
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