This book documents the extraordinary energy of a secret campaign in which some of the most vocal exponents of intellectual freedom in the West were instruments - whether they knew it or not, whether they liked it or not - of America's secret service.
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(197mm x 128mm x mm)
Publisher: Granta Books
Country of Publication:
UK Kirkus Review »
The end of World War II left the allied forces occupying Germany with a dilemma: everyone knew that, though undeclared, the old enmity with Soviet Russia had been resumed, and the Russians were already winning hearts and minds by pouring a great deal of money into a wide range of cultural events and conferences. How was the West to respond? A group of die-hard anticommunists responded by disrupting the communist-inspired conferences while staging their own rival events. These were often crude, notable for being boring, overly stage-managed, and for generating little beyond hot air; but both sides were new at this form of cultural propaganda. They soon got a great deal more subtle, as those who organized these pro-West cultural programmes (they ranged from full-blown arts festivals to conferences to providing financial and even editorial support for a plethora of small magazines such as Encounter) were absorbed into the new-born CIA. Eventually the CIA found itself committing a vast proportion of its financial resources and its manpower, often by way of a bewildering array of supposedly independent charitable foundations, to this curious aspect of the Cold War. Saunders chronicles this entire story with both verve and an astonishing attention to detail, in particular her portraits of the central players in events - Michael Josselson, Nicolas Nabokov, Melvin Lasky - are both perceptive and convincing. Without a detailed knowledge of the secret history of the last half century, it is hard to say exactly how much is genuinely revelatory in her story - certainly the role of the CIA in bankrolling much of European cultural life has been widely suspected if not an open secret for almost the entire period covered by this book - but it still amounts to an interesting and unexpected cultural history of our age. (Kirkus UK)
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