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


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 synopsis

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

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  • Excellent Read Oct 3, 2013
    by B. H

    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.

  • War No Surprise on Either Front Jul 11, 2013
    by Erick W

    Interesting perspective on WWII history.
    Well documented, an easy read. It is impossible to believe governments ignored all the signs. Then why did they?

  • Hell in a Handbasket Sep 18, 2008
    by Ludlow

    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.

  • Barely a Book, Total Whitewash Jul 12, 2008
    by mbrook4949

    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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