Synopses & Reviews
Few moments in history have seen as many seismic transformations as 1979. That single year marked the emergence of revolutionary Islam as a political force on the world stage, the beginning of market revolutions in China and Britain that would fuel globalization and radically alter the international economy, and the first stirrings of the resistance movements in Eastern Europe and Afghanistan that ultimately led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. More than any other year in the latter half of the twentieth century, 1979 heralded the economic, political, and religious realities that define the twenty-first.
In Strange Rebels, veteran journalist Christian Caryl shows how the world we live in today and the problems that plague it began to take shape in this pivotal year. 1979, he explains, saw a series of counterrevolutions against the progressive consensus that had dominated the postwar era. The years epic upheavals embodied a startling conservative challenge to communist and socialist systems around the globe, fundamentally transforming politics and economics worldwide. In China, 1979 marked the start of sweeping market-oriented reforms that have made the country the economic powerhouse it is today. 1979 was also the year that Pope John Paul II traveled to Poland, confronting communism in Eastern Europe by reigniting its peoples suppressed Catholic faith. In Iran, meanwhile, an Islamic Revolution transformed the nation into a theocracy almost overnight, overthrowing the Shahs modernizing monarchy. Further west, Margaret Thatcher became prime minister of Britain, returning it to a purer form of free-market capitalism and opening the way for Ronald Reagan to do the same in the US. And in Afghanistan, a Soviet invasion fueled an Islamic holy war with global consequences; the Afghan mujahedin presaged the rise of al-Qaeda and served as a key factor along with John Paul's journey to Poland in the fall of communism.
Weaving the story of each of these counterrevolutions into a brisk, gripping narrative, Strange Rebels is a groundbreaking account of how these far-flung events and disparate actors and movements gave birth to our modern age.
"A timely new book...Caryl tells this story with great skill. He moves effortlessly from one scene to another in this tumultuous year....Caryl also sprinkles his fast-paced narrative with plenty of striking details....Anyone who wants to understand how this new world came into being needs to read Mr. Caryl's excellent book." The Economist
"By amalgamating distinct geographic areas and seemingly disparate historical forces, Caryl uncovers new and vivid questions....A virtuoso of connection, Caryl joins Poland and Afghanistan into a single cold war narrative....These patterns and claims challenge the current journalistic obsessions with economic statistics and with social medias promise to gild the motors of globalization. Caryl brings forward a fierce contest over ideas, religious beliefs, and methods of government. The twenty-first century has not escaped from the age of ideology bequeathed to it by the twentieth century." The New Republic
It is hard to imagine figures as different as these or a year quite as grim as 1979, but suspend your disbelief for a moment. Mr. Caryl makes a fairly compelling case that this was a year when history made a sharp turn and that each leader set in motion the seismic changes that came to shape our world today: the fall of the Soviet Union, the rise of China and the emergence of radical Islam
.The reader comes away convinced that the forces set in motion, for good and for ill, in 1979 set the stage for the world we see today, in ways that were hard to see at the time.” Wall Street Journal
Strange Rebels...is carefully researched, broad in scope and smoothly written. Whether or not we agree that the 21st century began in 1979, or share Caryl's views as to the nature of that beginning and of the century thus far, he is undoubtedly correct that we could not possibly begin to understand the world we now live in without understanding what took place during that eventful year.” Chicago Tribune
Readers old enough to recall 1979 will come away from this book viewing that year as much more than just a miserable one for America; those too young to remember 1979 will gain new understanding of the only world they've known and of why history matters.” Pittsburgh Post Tribune
"[A] marvelous book.... While 1989 will always loom as the more sensational year...Caryl has made a very strong case indeed that 1979 was a pivotal year, one whose significance has perhaps not been adequately appreciated. His closing remarks alone about the lessons of 1979, which focus on the illusion that social and material advancement are inevitable, are worth the price of admission. In his book, then, Caryl has staged his own rebellion against humdrum writing and conventional analysis. It is a profound accomplishment. The Washington Monthly
"Caryl displays an impressive facility with Western, Soviet, Chinese, and Islamic political traditions and circumstances, and he manages to present a relatively coherent and unified view of world affairs." Publishers Weekly
"A highly focused work....As ably shown by Caryl, the events of this cataclysmic year would continue to bear fruit for years to come. An astute assessment of the efforts of a group of historic newsmakers." Kirkus
At the end of the 20th century, two coiled forces, religion and markets, sprung onto the world stage. From China's reforms to Margaret Thatcher's rise to Ayatollah Khomeini's revolution, they all began in 1979 and have been shaping international life ever since. Christian Caryl tells the story of that pivotal year and its consequences with intelligence, grace and lucidity.” Fareed Zakaria
After World War II, a secular, progressive consensus defined the international order. That changed in 1979, when a series of counterrevolutions swept the globe, blazing a path for a new era. China launched reforms that would make it the economic powerhouse it is today. Pope John Paul II traveled to Poland, challenging communism in Eastern Europe by reigniting its peoples suppressed Catholic faith. An Islamic revolution transformed Iran into a theocracy almost overnight, while the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan gave rise to that country's mujahedin resistance, the precursor to al-Qaeda. Margaret Thatcher became prime minister, returning Britain to a purer form of free-market capitalism and inspiring Ronald Reagan to do the same.
Weaving these stories into a brisk and gripping narrative, award-winning journalist Christian Caryl's Strange Rebels offers a groundbreaking explanation of the year that set the course for the twenty-first century.
About the Author
Christian Caryl is Deputy Editor at Foreign Policy, a contributing editor at Newsweek, and a Senior Fellow of the Center for International Studies at MIT. Formerly, he served as Washington Chief Editor for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Tokyo Bureau Chief of Newsweek, and Moscow Bureau Chief of both Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report. Caryl has also worked as a correspondent in Berlin and Hong Kong. A regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, he has also written for The Economist, Der Spiegel, the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, The New Republic, The Spectator, the Times Literary Supplement, The Sunday Times, the New Statesman, and the Boston Globe, among others. He is a graduate of Yale.