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A boundary-breaking book that moves subtly between genres, from memoir and Bildungsroman to social activism and cultural critique. It has the force of personal experience, the meditative pleasures of a novel, and the commitment of a social activist written by a polymath, brilliant thinker, and thoughtful writer. It offers a complex and masterfully written narrative in which events that exceed conventional historical analysis—Buchenwald; the Cold War; McCarthyism; the civil rights, feminist, and anti-war movements; the Cuban experiment in socialist humanism—are interpreted as a dialectics of history and agency.
The book has a particular poignancy for the present moment in which the task of social change and struggle for a society of equality have become urgent. It is the work of a committed life struggling for a socialist humanism that, as Markels argues, “enables us not just to dream of full lives but also to find ways to live them, by all and for the good of all.” —Teresa Ebert, author of The Task of Cultural Critique
From Buchenwald to Havana is lucid and humane . . . complex, fluid, rich in possibilities . . . learned and wise, and I sure learned a great deal from reading it. And I loved it. It reflects on socialist moments succinctly and it dramatizes a socialism which is attractive and always open to rethinking, It also shows how a person can be honest about pain and mistakes without spending his life only in regret and atonement.—Malcolm Griffith, Emeritus Professor of English, University of Washington
Julian Markels has taken the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times,” and turned it into a blessing for his readers in this rich and compelling account of his life inside the academy and out. As Markels recounts his personal journey, he gives us insights into significant moments in the history of Ohio State University; Marxist literary criticism and theory; Cuba after Castro; and much more. His is a life well-lived–and well-told. —Jim Phelan, author of Experiencing Fiction: Judgments, Progressions, and the Rhetorical Theory of Narrative