Berkeley Arts & Letters presents Masha Gessen / The Future is History
In this brave new world, millions of Americans are turning to Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen for her lived expertise on dictatorship, her unflinching advice, and her rigorous reportage. Her Autocracy: Rules for Survival essay in The New York Review of Books went viral last November; her byline has appeared even more frequently in the New York Times with advice like Dont Fight Their Lies With Lies of Your Own; and shes been appearing regularly on TV with Rachel Maddow and Samantha Bee, who memorably told Masha, You always scare the hell out of me. And yet I find you so reassuring somehow, in the same way that when I go home at night, I try to relax watching The Handmaid's Tale.
The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia is a major new narrative nonfiction work by Gessen, and a cautionary tale for our time. Across the course of the past three decades, Russia, having seemingly shed its Soviet incarnation for good and embarked on a journey toward democracy, devolved into a frightening retro-totalitarian state run by Putin with an iron fist. As Gessen writes in her prologue, The crackdown, the wars, and even Russias reversion to type on the world stage are things that happened that I witnessed and I wanted to tell this story. But I also wanted to tell about what did not happen: the story of freedom that was not embraced and democracy that was not desired. How do you tell a story like that? Where do you locate reasons for the absences? When do you begin, and with whom?
Gessen captures this pivotal era through the stories of several Russians whose lives spanned these decades; who blossomed with its embrace of unprecedented freedoms, then were crushed by its war on the very means by which they had come to understand themselves. By giving us the arc of these individual lives, The Future is History pushes past the abstractions and headlines, providing an illuminating, in-depth perspective on daily life under a regime that has turned on its own people.
Masha Gessen is an award-winning Russian-American journalist who is the author of several books, including the national bestseller The Man Without A Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, Vanity Fair, Slate, and many other publications, and her many awards include a Carnegie Fellowship and a Guggenheim. She lives in New York City.
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