Author(s): Masha Gessen
The Man without a Face is the chilling account of how a low-level, small-minded KGB operative ascended to the Russian presidency and, in an astonishingly short time, destroyed years of progress, making his country once more a threat to her own people and to the world.
Handpicked as a successor by the "family" surrounding an ailing and increasingly unpopular Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin seemed like the perfect choice for the oligarchy to shape according to its own designs. Suddenly the boy who had stood in the shadows, dreaming of ruling the world, was a public figure, and his popularity soared. Russia and an infatuated West were determined to see the progressive leader of their dreams, even as he seized control of the media, sent political rivals and critics into exile or to the grave, and smashed the country's fragile electoral system, concentrating power in the hands of his cronies.
As a journalist living in Moscow, Masha Gessen experienced this history firsthand, and for The Man without a Face she has drawn on information and sources no other writer has tapped. Her account of how a faceless man maneuvered his way into absolute-and absolutely corrupt-power has the makings of a classic of narrative nonfiction.
Shortlisted for Pushkin House Russian Book Prize 2013.
"In a country where journalists critical of the government have a way of meeting untimely deaths, Ms. Gessen has shown remarkable courage in researching and writing this unflinching indictment of the most powerful man in Russia... Although written before the recent protests erupted, the book helps to explain the anger and outrage driving that movement." -"The Wall Street Journal" "Powerful and gracefully written... Gessen's book flows on multiple tracks, tracing Putin's life back to boyhood, the story of his hometown of St. Petersburg, and finally the last quarter-century of Russian history... For all of the ghoulish detail, Gessen's account of Putin's Russia is not overwrought... [she] displays impressive control of her prose and her story, painting a portrait of a vile Putin without sounding polemical." -"San Francisco Chronicle" "Written in English but with Russian heart, Gessen focuses on the places and institutions that bred the nation's most resolute leader since Stalin... Some might say that Gessen's interpretation is political. Of course it is... but more importantly, it is thorough. She has seen fellow journalists killed, has been harassed herself, and yet continues to write from Russia... Her urgency is felt on nearly every page." -"Bookforum" "[Gessen] shines a piercing light into every dark corner of Putin's story... Fascinating, hard-hitting reading." -"Foreign Affairs " "Although Gessen is enough of an outsider to write beautifully clear and eloquent English, she is enough of an insider to convey, accurately, the wild swings of emotions, the atmosphere of mad speculation, the paranoia, and, yes, the hysteria that pervade all political discussion and debate in Moscow today." -"The New York Review of Books" "Illuminating... It is with [the] explosive revelations that Gessen truly excels... an electrifying read from what can only be described as an incredibly brave writer." -"Columbia Journalism Review" r
MASHA GESSEN is a journalist who has written for Slate, the New Republic, the New York Times and other publications. She is the author of several books, including Dead Again, Two Babushkas and Blood Matters: A Journey Along the Genetic Frontier. She lives in Moscow.