Saturday, January 3, 2009

Books about Cold War culture: 5 best

Daniel Johnson, the editor of Standpoint and author of White King and Red Queen: How the Cold War Was Fought on the Chessboard, named a five best list of books about Cold War culture for the Wall Street Journal.

Number One on his list:
Nineteen Eighty-Four
By George Orwell
Harcourt, Brace, 1949

It is easier to say when the Cold War ended than when it began. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union happened within two action-packed years, 1989-1991. But the ideological conflict between the Soviets and the West started immediately after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, well before the post-World War II battle for geopolitical supremacy. George Orwell seems to have coined the phrase "cold war" in 1945, in a newspaper article written while he was at work on "Nineteen Eighty-Four," the novel that defined the era more than any other. Rereading it today, one is struck by how prescient Orwell was in his evocation of a dictatorship under which truth and morality have been turned into "thoughtcrime." For Orwell, and for Winston Smith, the beleaguered central character of "Nineteen Eighty-Four," "freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows." The Cold War was won by insisting that the values of Western civilization were non-negotiable. Is that still our position today?
Read about all five books on Johnson's list.

--Marshal Zeringue