• The Man Without a Face

  • The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin
  • By: Masha Gessen
  • Narrated by: Masha Gessen
  • Length: 10 hrs and 24 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (555 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

National Book Award-winner Masha Gessen's biography of a ruthless man's ascent to near-absolute power.

“In a country where journalists critical of the government have a way of meeting untimely deaths, Ms. Gessen has shown remarkable courage in researching and writing this unflinching indictment of the most powerful man in Russia.” (The Wall Street Journal)

The Man Without a Face is the chilling account of how a low-level, small-minded KGB operative ascended to the Russian presidency and, in an astonishingly short time, destroyed years of progress and made his country once more a threat to its own people and to the world.

Handpicked as a successor by the "family" surrounding an ailing and increasingly unpopular Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin seemed like a perfect choice for the oligarchy to shape according to its own designs. Suddenly the boy who had stood in the shadows, dreaming of ruling the world, was a public figure, and his popularity soared. Russia and an infatuated West were determined to see the progressive leader of their dreams, even as he seized control of media, sent political rivals and critics into exile or to the grave, and smashed the country's fragile electoral system, concentrating power in the hands of his cronies.

As a journalist living in Moscow, Masha Gessen experienced this history firsthand, and for The Man Without a Face, she has drawn on information and sources no other writer has tapped. Her account of how a "faceless" man maneuvered his way into absolute - and absolutely corrupt - power is the definitive biography of Vladimir Putin.

©2012 Masha Gessen (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

Slate and San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2012

"[An] absorbing portrait.... Gessen is most illuminating when she details the historical accidents that allowed an unexceptional bureaucrat to rule Russia." (The New Yorker)

“Part psychological profile, part conspiracy study.... As a Moscow native who has written perceptively for both Russian and Western publications, Gessen knows the cultures and pathologies of Russia...[and has] a delicious command of the English language.... A fiercely independent journalist.... Gessen’s armchair psychoanalysis of Putin is speculative. But it is a clever and sometimes convincing speculation, based on a close reading of Putin’s own inadvertently revealing accounts of his life, and on interviews with people who knew Putin before he mattered.” (The New York Times Book Review)

“In a country where journalists critical of the government have a way of meeting untimely deaths, Ms. Gessen has shown remarkable courage in researching and writing this unflinching indictment of the most powerful man in Russia.... Although written before the recent protests erupted, the book helps to explain the anger and outrage driving that movement.” (The Wall Street Journal)

What listeners say about The Man Without a Face

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  • Overall
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A Preview of Authoritarianism in the USA

For an in depth view of how democracy fails and authoritarianism takes root, read this incredible personal story from an eye witness to history, Masha Gessen. Don’t think it can happen here in the USA? Think again.

11 people found this helpful

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Clear and intelligent political reporting

Gessen is an excellent writer and witness of Russia's return to the totalitarian failed state of Lenin and Stalin. In a precise, direct narrative she chronicles how KGB operative Putin, with sullen cunning, stumbled into his dictatorship thereby completely closing any hope of individual political freedom opened by the collapse of the Soviet Union.

6 people found this helpful

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Gripping!

Excellent story and narration. I enjoyed the author as the narrator. Her retelling of all the experiences she had with the rise of Putin’s government was gripping.
It was clear and factual. The timeline was excellent and many side stories were helpful and interesting.
I found myself, many times, pausing the story googling people and places. These extras gave humanity to the story and landscape. I really appreciated her bravery for writing and telling this story. Highly recommend!

5 people found this helpful

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Masha Gessen has the key to understanding Putin

This was an outstanding book, and it was wonderful to hear Masha’s Narration. The storytelling was fantastic, and the insights and sidebars fascinating. I feel like I just learned about what made Russia tick from Yeltsin to today. Thank you Masha for so courageously covering Putin, the thug.

4 people found this helpful

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Inconsistent, Irrelevant, and Needs a Narrator

Not sure of the manuscript's history but the book feels like a set of recycled articles that's been stitched together. There are some interesting pieces but no overall narrative. Most of the book covers not Putin per se but rather (roughly) 1990 to 2000. This book is really a summary of that period rather than a true Putin bio.

Even worse, the author frequently goes into irrelevant matters. Her personal life? Who cares! The fates, opinions, and experiences of her fellow journalists? I thought this was a biography of Putin, so I'm not sure why they were dwelt on at such length.

Fatally, Gessen is not a professional narrator. Even setting aside her considerable accent, she doesn't have the diction, pacing, and speaking ability that this price commands. For what we pay, I think we deserve a professional.

3 people found this helpful

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  • 06-27-20

More about Gessen than about Putin

I had high hopes for this study but in the end it seemed more like a work about Gessen than about Putin. Throughout the book she used the Putin era as a backdrop in order to create her "brand" as a sexy revolutionary type but in the end it seemed more like a vanity project than a historical study. Just one man's opinion.

3 people found this helpful

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Wow

Lots to think about in this book. Now, I want a sequel to bring us up to date.

3 people found this helpful

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Book for our time.

excellent analysis and fine presentation. holds one's attention. Timely read in current situation of United States.

3 people found this helpful

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I really tried to listen and learn, but was SO laborious!

This could have been condensed. I just could not finish the book. I will return the book

2 people found this helpful

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Interesting book but really bad performance

It’s actually kinda hard to follow/get into the story sometimes because of the way it’s read.

1 person found this helpful