The Man Without a Face by Masha Gessen
Riverhead • $27.95 • ISBN 978159448429
Published March 1, 2012


Journalist Masha Gessen's new book chronicling Vladimir Putin's rise to power is a chilling and brave work of nonfiction. After all, digging up dirt from the past of a secretive autocrat is at best, difficult (sources are thin on the ground) and at worst, dangerous (Gessen was subject to harassment and threats while working on the book). And Putin has had strict control over the few details about his early life that are available.

But with The Man Without a Face, Gessen has succeeded in convincingly portraying the forces that made Putin who he is today (would it surprise you to know that this is a boy who dreamed of being a spy?). A portrait emerges of a crafty, canny, power-hungry man whose hold on Russia shows no sign of slacking despite increasing protests.

Possibly the most bizarre fact about Putin's ascent to power is that the people who lifted him to the throne knew little more about him than you do. Berezovsky told me he never considered Putin a friend and never found him interesting as a person. . . . But when he considered Putin as a successor to Yeltsin, he seemed to assume that the very qualities that kept them at arm's length would make Putin an ideal candidate: Putin, being apparently devoid of personality and personal interest, would be both more malleable and disciplined. Berezovsky could not have been more wrong.

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p.s. check out Masha Gessen on "The Daily Show."

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Masha Gessen

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