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Los Angeles Times - Los Angeles, Calif.
Author: Weschler, Lawrence
Date: Jun 25, 2000
Start Page: 10
Section: Book Review; PART-; Book Review Desk
Abstract (Document Summary)

Time's exemplary treatment of Albert Einstein and his legacy deserves, however, to be read side by side with Jonathan Schell's remarkable essay, "The Unfinished Twentieth Century," first published in the January issue of Harper's. That essay--featured as the preface to a reissue of Schell's classic 1982 study of nuclear arms, "The Fate of the Earth"--suggested that the century just past might be cast as a tale of three Augusts: August 1914, when liberal democracies failed to avert a downward spiral into cataclysmic total war, a war which led directly to the rise of two competing totalitarian systems (Stalinism and Nazism) and a second world war which in turn would culminate with the detonation, in August 1945, of a total weapon (indirect spawn, of course, of that same Einsteinian insight); the vertiginous proliferation of that weapon on either side of the ensuing divide between the so-called "Free" and "Communist" camps in turn defined the world's power relations (not to speak of its entire existential fate) for much of the rest of the century until August 1991, when, with the failed communist putsch in Moscow, one side of the dyad, the Soviet Union, simply self-destructed, obliterating, along with itself, any remaining rationale for the ongoing existence of such horrifying arsenals.

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