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Witness to an Extreme Century

A Memoir

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As a preeminent intellectual and a political activist, Robert Jay Lifton helped found the field of psychohistory. In this moving memoir, he will describe a life of hopeful witness, of looking into the abyss of twentieth-century tragedy in order to see beyond it.

Robert Jay Lifton is a man of conscience who, as a psychiatrist immersed in history, has devoted his life to probing some of the darkest moments of the last half of the twentieth century. In Witness to an Extreme Century, Lifton offers a memoir that, while peering into history’s wounds, comes away seeing well beyond the bleak surface to something eternally hopeful about the human spirit. His life’s work has added enormously to our understanding of human behavior. He has hurled himself into the most appalling historical episodes of the mid-twentieth century, including those involving victims of Chinese mind control, survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bomb, Vietnam veterans, and genocidal Nazi doctors.

Lifton has led one of the most intellectually vital lives of the late twentieth century and beyond. He writes not only about his witness to the consequences of cruelty and destructiveness but also to individual and collective resilience, to the human capacity to recover and re-create versions of oneself and the world. Witness to an Extreme Century will appeal to anyone who is concerned about our times, the human potential for evil, and our capacity to overcome it.