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Roads Not Taken

William Christian Bullitt (1891-1967) was the most cosmopolitan U.S. diplomat of his time. Voted "most brilliant" in his class at Yale, he wrote novels, plays, essays, and coauthored a controversial biography of President Wilson with Sigmund Freud. A political visionary, his views were often contentious, although he was often proven right by the unfolding of events. Bullitt served the United States through two World Wars and foresaw the collapse of old regimes while becoming a sympathetic expert on both European and Russian socialism. He was a member of the American delegation to the Paris Peace Conference (1918), the first U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union (1933-1936), and Roosevelt's Ambassador to France (1936-1940). A friend of the Russian people and an early proponent of friendly relations with the new Soviet government under Lenin, his later experience as ambassador to Moscow led him to be among the first to warn of Stalin's aggressive intentions toward the West. Bullitt worked tirelessly to preserve European democracy until policy disagreements with his friend Franklin Roosevelt eventually sidelined him politically. While his famous disciples, George Kennan and Charles Bohlen, led American diplomacy toward the USSR in the emerging Cold War, Bullitt became an early advocate of European unity. This multi-faceted biography sheds new light on the fascinating, deeply intellectual life of an important political figure who counted Lenin, Roosevelt, Chiang-Kai-Shek, Charles de Gaulle, and Sigmund Freud among his personal relationships in a life profoundly connected to the history of the twentieth century.
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About the Author

Alexander Etkind is professor of Russian literature and cultural history and a fellow of King's College, Cambridge. He has taught at the European University at St. Petersburg, as a visiting professor at New York University and Georgetown University, and as a resident fellow at Harvard, Princeton, the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington D.C., Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin, and University of Canterbury in New Zealand. He is the author of numerous books including, most recently, Warped Mourning: Stories of the Undead in the Land of the Unburied and Internal Colonization: Russia's Imperial Experience.


"Alexander Etkind is among the most fecund and original of cultural historians. Extraordinary lives like William Bullitt's-- deeply involved with Freud, Wilson, Lenin, Stalin, Kennan, and Roosevelt-- make extraordinary demands on their biographers. Etkind has more than met these demands in this wonderful volume." --Eli Zaretsky, the New School for Social Research "Bullitt came full circle, from supporting the Revolution to supporting containment. Most of his adult life was spent combining the skills and drawbacks of an analyst, a prophet, and Cassandra. In this sympathetic biography, Alexander Etkind, offers a psychoanalytic reading of his subject, but his more conventional summary of William Bullitt also rings true: brilliant and bitter." --The Times Literary Supplement "Bullitt steered through life like the kind of cabbie you hope to avoid: now jabbing the gas, now stomping the brake, all the while monologuing away. It's no wonder that such a man would catch the interest of biographers. In Roads Not Taken, a slender new edition to the corpus of Bullitt books, Alexander Etkind argues that previous treatments of the man and his life have left some blanks and blind spots, and sets about trying to fill them. We see Bullitt and his young attaches locked in le Carre-ish maneuvers with Stalin's secret police, sitting up nights with revolvers, setting electrical traps in the hallways, at least until the electricity is cut off. There is also, more kaleidoscopically, the gigantic and barely believable party that Bullitt threw at the embassy for 500 guests, featuring baby goats, a drunken bear, a Czech jazz band and enough tawdry spectacle to furnish Bulgakov all the material he needed for the Satan's Ball scene of The Master and Margarita--down to Bullitt himself presiding in the figure of Woland, the devil. . . . That kind of life makes a rich subject for a biography." --The Wall Street Journal "A brilliant portrait of one of the most important American diplomats of the twentieth century. A man of immense charm, a friend and savior of Freud and his family in 1938, an admirer of Russia and witness to the horror of the purges, a figure turned into fiction by Bulgakov, Bullitt comes to life in Etkind's remarkable book. Essential reading for all students of twentieth-century Europe and the European-American embrace." --Jay Winter, Yale University "An informative biography of diplomat William C. Bullitt, a name not commonly associated with the foundation of the American Cold War policy but should be. . . . Although Bullitt fell out of favor with the Roosevelt administration during World War II, his influence spread to diplomats such as George Kennan and Charles Bohlen, both of whom served under Bullitt in Moscow. This personal narrative will interest scholarly and casual readers ... Highly recommended for those seeking a satisfying biography and those who want a better understanding of American-Russian relations." --Library Journal (starred review)

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