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An Affirming Flame: Meditations on Life and Politics (Hardcover)

An Affirming Flame: Meditations on Life and Politics By Roger Cohen Cover Image
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“For more than forty years Roger Cohen has ventured to every corner of the earth to chronicle the great upheavals of our age, but he’s never lost sight of what really matters: love, hope, and all the mysteries of the human heart. Here, in this collection of columns that will take you from the streets of Kyiv to an execution chamber in Alabama, you can read him at his best.”—Dexter Filkins, best-selling author of The Forever War

A collection of the finest New York Times columns written by Roger Cohen over more than a decade, accompanied by an original, twenty-thousand-word essay on the state of the world

The countless readers who followed Roger Cohen’s column and mourned its end responded above all to what they saw as the marriage in his writing of head and heart. That tenor permeates An Affirming Flame.

During his twelve years as a columnist, Cohen aimed to hold power to account at home and abroad, in the name of freedom, decency, pluralism, and the importance of truth and dissent in open societies. He watched with alarm as the outside threat of 9/11 morphed into the internal threat of January 6. This time, the assailants were not jihadi terrorists; they were American white supremacists and seditionists convinced of American decadence but unable to see that they personified it. The threat to American democracy is clear.

Cohen dissects this ominous American fracture. He explores themes of displacement, belonging, and his own imperiled craft of journalism. His examination of the rising tide of authoritarian rule takes him to China, and in Kyiv he sees the devastating impact of Vladimir Putin's Russian nationalism. With its trenchant consideration of the plight of refugees, COVID-19, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the war in Afghanistan, Cohen's writing reflects his belief in the unquenchable human quest for dignity.

He captures the fight to defend America’s openness, democratic institutions, and ideals against the rising tide of retrogression, division, and assault on truth. This struggle, as Cohen writes, is also the world’s. It is inseparable from the battle to save humanity from the creeping autocracy of the twenty-first century. As he writes, “On lies is tyranny built.”

About the Author


In 2023, ROGER COHEN and a team of New York Times reporters were awarded a Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting and a George Polk Award in Foreign Reporting for their coverage of the war in Ukraine. Cohen is the Paris bureau chief and a former op-ed columnist for The New York Times, where he began working in 1990. He has also worked for the Times as bureau chief in Berlin and in the Balkans, where he covered the Bosnian war and received the Eric and Amy Burger Award from the Overseas Press Club of America. His columns twice won the Society of Publishers in Asia’s Excellence in Opinion Writing Award. He was named foreign editor the day before 9/11 and oversaw Pulitzer Prize–winning coverage of the aftermath of the attack. He has also worked as a foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and Reuters. In 2021, he received the Légion d’Honneur from the French Republic—France’s highest order of merit—for his work over four decades. His previous books include The Girl from Human Street, Soldiers and Slaves, and Hearts Grown Brutal. Born in Britain to South African parents, he is a naturalized American. He lives in Paris.

Praise For…


“Roger Cohen’s columns are never less than cogent and well informed but his writing has another quality too, a wistful, even elegiac, lyricism, which means that this collection will endure long after the political issues it addresses have been forgotten.”—Sigrid Rausing, editor of Granta

“There’s surely no one to compare with Roger Cohen for the combination of intelligence, eloquence, and breadth of lived experience that he brings to his articles and columns. But it’s a more elusive quality that keeps me hungering for his commentary. Partly it’s the sheer, restless intensity of his urge to bear witness, whether from hot wars or peaceful uprisings, from remote migrant camps or bastions of global power, from desecrated landscapes or places of still unruined beauty. But it’s also his willingness to situate himself in the midst of any given crisis, not just as an observer, but as a human being with his own history, his own complex feelings, his capacity for pleasure as well as indignation, above all his passionate attachment to the values of tolerance, decency and individual dignity, in the face of dimming prospects for all three. Here, along with a superb selection of pieces from the last fifteen years, is an extended introductory essay in which he maps out the contours of this ‘Age of Undoing’ with brilliant lucidity, while tracing his own remarkable journey across its fault lines. I can’t imagine a better guide to the reality of our times.”—James Lasdun, author of The Fall Guy

“Roger Cohen’s unfailing moral compass is on full display in these elegantly written, deeply considered essays. The only political columnist who can quote Donald Trump and Wisława Szymborska with equal ease, Cohen investigates the space from truth to beauty and back again, telling us all we need to know.”—Ruth Franklin, author of Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life

“Roger Cohen takes it all on. History, hatred, war, Trump. He’s a deeply-traveled reporter, distinguished author, and, here, a newspaper columnist. Cohen claims the title ‘citizen of the world’ proudly, and its breadth is the key to his kaleidoscopic insight.”—William Finnegan, author of Barbarian Days

“Few journalists write with the authority and eloquence of Roger Cohen, the foreign correspondent of South African descent with a British education and an American passport whose columns for The New York Times were indispensable. An Affirming Flame is the brilliant consummation of that run: a searching examination of our ‘Age of Undoing,’ tempered by a powerfully persuasive insistence upon the necessity of hope.”—Janny Scott, author of The Beneficiary: Fortune, Misfortune, and the Story of My Father

“For more than forty years Roger Cohen has ventured to every corner of the earth to chronicle the great upheavals of our age, but he’s never lost sight of what really matters: love, hope, and all the mysteries of the human heart. Here, in this collection of columns that will take you from the streets of Kyiv to an execution chamber in Alabama, you can read him at his best.”—Dexter Filkins, best-selling author of The Forever War

“Roger Cohen is a wanderer, an omnivore, a tireless pursuer of human decency in the darkest places. These columns of fifteen years make up a lyrical and deeply personal history of the present.”—George Packer, author of Last Best Hope

“Shrewd analysis and often prescient insight . . . A stirring collection of cultural critique, penetrating reportage, and candid autobiography . . . [An Affirming Flame is] a collection of perceptive, astute journalism from a master at the craft.”Kirkus Review (starred review)

“Erudite . . . Incisive quotes litter the collection, highlighting Cohen’s skills as an observer and demystifier of complex geopolitical events. The result is a master class in opinion writing.”Publishers Weekly



Product Details
ISBN: 9780593321522
ISBN-10: 0593321529
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: February 21st, 2023
Pages: 464
Language: English