"Very few books today make me wish they were longer than they are, but I wanted Joseph Harsch's At the Hinge of History to go on and on. This is a cool and graceful look at the American century from one of its leading reporters. It is astonishing for the range of great events he witnessed and remarkable for the special clarity of its vision, illuminated with a knowledge and a sense of history extremely rare in journalism."
At the Hinge of History is Harsch's career autobiography. What is most striking in this deftly rendered account is Harsch's uncanny knack for being at the right place at the right time. He was a reporter in Washington when President Hoover began to grasp the magnitude of the economic crisis that became known as the Great Depression. While traveling to the Soviet Union in 1941, he arrived in Hawaii just before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He was with General MacArthur in Australia on the occasion of the "I shall return" speech. He reported from the liberated death camps in 1945, went behind the newly forged Iron Curtain in 1947 and 1949, and was stationed in London when certain postwar pressures tested the Anglo-American alliance.
Throughout the book, Harsch reveals an overarching perspective that places major events in a larger historical context. This is especially evident in the later chapters when he discussed the course of the Cold War, the role of ideology in the American view of China and the conduct of the Vietnam War, and the origins of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The book is filled with fascinating sketches of his encounters with such figures as President Roosevelt, General MacArthur, Dean Acheson, Walter Lippmann, and Adlai Stevenson.
On occasion, Harsch recalls events not recounted elsewhere, and he frequently casts a new light on familiar ground. In one eye-opening chapter, for example, he describes the international effort in the 1930s to resettle European Jews in Angola--an effort that collapsed when Hitler invaded Poland. He provides a chilling firsthand recollection of the complacency and unpreparedness that preceded the Pearl Harbor bombing. In still other chapters he relates his role in the "capture" of Nazi leader Albert Speer and in the investigation following the mysterious murder in Greece of his fellow correspondent George Polk.
At once refreshingly direct and replete with self-effacing irony, At the Hinge of History is a memorable testament to the personal qualities of its author, to the art and science of journalism, and to the tumultuous twentieth century.
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