The Man Without a Face by Masha Gessen
The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin

96%

22 Critic Reviews

..Ms. Gessen has shown remarkable courage in researching and writing this unflinching indictment of the most powerful man in Russia.
-WSJ online

Synopsis

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 and made 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 a 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 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.

 

About Masha Gessen

See more books from this Author
MASHA GESSEN is a journalist and the author of several previous books, most recently Perfect Rigor. Editor of the Russian-language Snob magazine, she has contributed to Vanity Fair, The New Republic, Granta, and Slate, among other publications. Gessen lives in Moscow.
 
Published March 1, 2012 by Riverhead Books. 319 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, Travel. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Man Without a Face
All: 22 | Positive: 21 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by BILL KELLER on Mar 16 2012

Gessen’s “Man Without a Face” is altogether different: part psychological profile, part conspiracy study.

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Luke Harding on Mar 09 2012

A dogged researcher, she has written a brave book, demolishing the numerous myths and legends that have accumulated around her subject.

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by James Meek on Feb 26 2012

...clear, brave book makes a strong case that Putin is not merely turning a blind eye to embezzlement and skimming. He is, she asserts, an arch-practitioner.

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WSJ online

Excellent
Reviewed by PAUL STAROBIN on Feb 25 2012

..Ms. Gessen has shown remarkable courage in researching and writing this unflinching indictment of the most powerful man in Russia.

Read Full Review of The Man Without a Face: The U... | See more reviews from WSJ online

Financial Times

Excellent
Reviewed by John Lloyd on Feb 26 2012

She does not so much write his biography as seek to destroy the hagiography others have created.

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Globe and Mail

Below average
Reviewed by AMY KNIGHT on Mar 23 2012

But, contrary to the publicity surrounding the book, it is not full of startling new revelations. And the author ...places herself so much in the narrative...

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The Economist

Excellent
Reviewed by The Economist. on Jun 09 2012

...a well-known journalist in Moscow, is especially interesting on Mr Putin's time working for the mayor of St Petersburg amid the chaos of the early 1990s.

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The Independent

Excellent
Reviewed by Lucy Popescu on Feb 26 2012

...underlines Putin's propensity for crude humour throughout her courageous, enlightening account of his rise to power.

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The Independent

Excellent
Reviewed by MARY DEJEVSKY on Feb 24 2012

Gessen's epilogue is a worthy conclusion to a book that is part-personal memoir, part-political and social history and part-polemic...

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The Telegraph

Excellent
Reviewed by Mick Brown on Feb 25 2012

Gessen’s book, The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, provides a compelling and exhaustive portrait of a man who rose without trace from being a minor KGB and St Petersburg bureaucrat...

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The Telegraph

Excellent
Reviewed by A Miller on Feb 24 2012

The conspiracies that Gessen chronicles will seem shocking and baroque to some. To others, they will be dimly familiar...

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The Washington Post

Excellent
Reviewed by David Hoffman on Apr 07 2012

Gessen’s book does not attempt to weigh up Putin’s record but rather examines his biography, mind-set and methods.

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The New York Review of Books

Excellent
Reviewed by Anne Applebaum on Apr 26 2012

Her book, although focused on Putin and his rise to power, is at heart a description of this secret police milieu.

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Foreign Affairs

Excellent
Reviewed by Robert Legvold

This makes for fascinating, hard-hitting reading but scarcely inspires a sense of scrupulous objectivity -- not when...Gessen opts for a sinister explanation that leads back to Putin.

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Book Forum

Excellent
Reviewed by Alexander Nazaryan on Mar 19 2012

In this book, written in English but with Russian heart, Gessen focuses on the places and institutions that bred the nation's most resolute leader since Stalin, whose reputation Putin has tried to rehabilitate.

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The Spectator

Excellent
Reviewed by Masha Karp on Mar 24 2012

Gessen focuses on the trajectory of a postwar Soviet boy growing up in a shabby communal flat, fierce and vengeful in street fights, who dreams of joining the KGB.

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Herald Scotland

Excellent
Reviewed by Harry Reid on Mar 03 2012

Gessen knows a lot about St Petersburg, formerly Leningrad, and one of the many virtues of her tough, angry biography is that it is not in any way Moscow-centric.

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Bloomberg

Excellent
Reviewed by Leon Lazaroff on Mar 07 2012

Gessen sees Putin as a man driven by control and vengeance, not ideology.

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Dawn.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Nadir Hassan on Dec 09 2012

...in her brave and valuable portrait of the less seemly aspects of Putin in The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, posits that the man he has become in power is the man he was all along.

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Columbia Journalism Review

Excellent
Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes on Mar 07 2012

...uniformly impresses with her criticism of her subject, steadily slinging mud but backing it up with enough credible fact and insightful analysis to make it stick.

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Tablet Magazine

Excellent
Reviewed by Liel Leibovitz on Apr 19 2012

Her recent book, The Man Without a Face, is as smart and evocative a thriller as any, except Gessen’s book also happens to be true.

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Politico

Excellent
Reviewed by JOHN MURRAY on Mar 07 2012

In this lively account of Putin’s rise to power, Masha Gessen, a Russian-American journalist living in Moscow, believes change in Russia is imminent.

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