Yale historian Gaddis began this magisterial history almost 30 years ago; the result is a revealing view of how this greatest of Cold War strategists came to doubt his strategy and always doubted himself.
Despite its problems of perspective and balance, Gaddis’s George F. Kennan remains a monumental and absorbing book. His prose is elegant and lively. Though Kennan will likely attract other biographers, none will be able to match the research on display here ... He is often perceptive, sensitive, and reflective ... The biography, however, devotes only one paragraph to recounting the substance of Kennan’s...early and influential endorsement of Senator Eugene McCarthy in the 1968 Democratic presidential primaries on grounds of McCarthy’s opposition to the war. The biography suffers from this neglect ... Though he captures much of the man’s complexity, Gaddis’s depiction of Kennan is ultimately clipped and flattened.
... magisterial ... bids fair to be as close to the final word as possible on one of the most important, complex, moving, challenging and exasperating American public servants ... We can be grateful to John Lewis Gaddis for bringing Kennan back to us, thoughtful, human, self-centered, contradictory, inspirational — a permanent spur as consciences are wont to be. Masterfully researched, exhaustively documented, Gaddis’s moving work gives us a figure with whom, however one might differ on details, it was a privilege to be a contemporary ... Gaddis had the acumen to follow Kennan’s tortured quest and to convince us that Kennan had indeed reached his mountaintop.
... well worth the wait ... works brilliantly as a piece of intellectual history, and as a biography of a fascinating and complex man. Fortunately, both Gaddis and Kennan write beautifully. Long quotations from Kennan’s work light up the book ... Gaddis has the intellectual confidence to disagree with his hero’s judgments ... Indeed it is one of the strengths of his book that while the author is a huge admirer of Kennan, he does not attempt to disguise or excuse his failings.