Cover image for A hole in the world : an unfolding story of war, protest and the new American order
A hole in the world : an unfolding story of war, protest and the new American order
Schell, Jonathan, 1943-2014.
Publication Information:
New York : Nation Books, [2004]

Physical Description:
xiv, 241 pages ; 21 cm
General Note:
"These essays originally appeared in The Nations"...verso t.p.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E902 .D355 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



In the immediate aftermath of September 11, Jonathan Schell wrote wise and passionate words that appeared in The Nation. From these words blossomed a regular column by the former New Yorker writer on the new American way of living, dying, and killing. Fierce and elegant, infused with Schell's typical compassion, these meditations were incisions into the received wisdoms of post-9/11 America. Drawing from historical precedents to comments on the current political and cultural situation, Schell presents compelling arguments against America's imperial ambitions, explores the dangers posed by the resurgence of nuclear proliferation, and argues that the public can and must hold their leaders accountable for their actions. As Schell warns, "Attention must shift from the deceiver to the deceived. The corruption threatens to spread from the teller to the hearer--from the Administration to the country, from them to us. Today's lies, exaggerations, contradictions and broken promises litter the mental landscape, like uncollected garbage, polluting and poisoning the intellectual and moral air. A fog of amnesia covers the scene. What was said ten minutes ago is forgotten. What was promised yesterday never appears, and no one cares ... Cognitive torture calls for cognitive indignation. And indignation should lead to action."

Author Notes

Jonathan Schell was born in Manhattan, New York on August 21, 1943. He received a bachelor's degree in Far Eastern history from Harvard University and spent a year studying Japanese at the International Christian University in Tokyo. In 1967, while heading home from his year abroad in Japan, he stopped in Vietnam, where he witnessed Operation Cedar Falls, an aerial campaign designed to level Ben Suc, which was known as a Vietcong stronghold. This experience led to his first book The Village of Ben Suc.

His other non-fiction works include The Fate of the Earth, The Gift of Time: The Case for Abolishing Nuclear Weapons Now, The Unfinished Twentieth Century, The Unconquerable World, and The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger. He was a staff writer for The New Yorker from 1967 to 1987. He also worked as a columnist for Newsday and New York Newsday and as a correspondent for The Nation. He taught at numerous universities including Yale, Princeton, Wesleyan, and N.Y.U. He died of cancer on March 25, 2014 at the age of 70.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

As the subtitle suggests, Senator Byrd has clear contempt for both the foreign and domestic policies of the Bush administration. Of course, his opposition to the war in Iraq has been consistent. Here, his main concern is what he views as an attack on our constitutional liberties and on the separation of powers, led by an ideologically driven administration. His warnings about the potential, down-the-road threat implied by measures taken in the name of national security deserve consideration. Unfortunately, his zeal overwhelms his historical perspective. Our freedoms survived the Alien and Sedition Acts, the Red scare of the 1920s, and the McCarthy era. So his claim that our freedoms are under unprecedented attack is over the top. Most Jeremiahs' predictions are wrong. Yet we are compelled to listen to them because their most horrific visions occasionally come true. Had Bush or Rice paid closer heed to Jeremiahs in their own administration--well, who knows? Schell, who made his name as a prophet of doom in the Fate of the Earth series in the New Yorker, here warns us about inherent dangers in our war against terrorism. Apparently, he sees most of the dangers emanating from the American side. He absurdly blames the U.S. for destabilizing Pakistan (as if Pakistan was once an island of stability). He worries that our nation will lash out like an enraged blind giant . Still, he does correctly point out that some of the more grandiose foreign policy goals of Bush's advisors risk setting off chain reactions with incalculable consequences. --Jay Freeman Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

The noted left-liberal public intellectual Schell copes with the trauma of September 11 and the Bush administration's militarized response in this hard-hitting collection of essays, reprinted from Schell's "Letter From Ground Zero" columns in The Nation. The selections, which are arranged chronologically, cover the period from the terrorist attacks to March 2004, and the author's tone correspondingly shifts from shell-shocked foreboding ("we seem to be gliding in a glassy calm toward a multitude of horrors") to increasingly exasperated denunciations of "the brutal, unilateral, hegemonic war" in Iraq. Schell made his name as a reporter in Vietnam and later penned the anti-nuclear weapons manifesto The Fate of the Earth, and it is through these two lenses that he views the current crisis. Many of the essays harp on what Schell deems the wrong-headedness and hypocrisy of Bush's doctrine of pre-emptive war, which Schell contends encourages nuclear proliferation in countries like North Korea and Iran rather than curbing it. Meanwhile, his sharp-eyed analysis of the deepening quagmire in Iraq notes that, as in Vietnam, the original discredited rationales for war are being abandoned for an imperialist logic of "credibility." Schell's preoccupation with themes of nuclear annihilation and the folly of empire give the essays a grim, at times apocalyptic mood-"a monster, driven mad by righteous fury and dizzy with its own power, is rising out of the ashes of September 11 to bellow destruction to the world"-only occasionally lifted by hymns to the anti-war movement and calls for nuclear abolition. But his many prescient observations-"countries that aren't into nation-building are ill-advised to get into nation-toppling," he wrote, when Operation Iraqi Freedom was but a gleam in Donald Rumsfeld's eye-lend credence to a challenging critique of American policy. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.