As we approach the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we have a chance to see more clearly how they were a turning point in America’s relationship with the world. America became more assertive abroad; its authority and legitimacy as the only superpower became more widely opposed; and the limitations of the U.S.-dominated post–World War II international structures became more evident with each passing year.
The first half of Generation’s End examines the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks through the invasion of Iraq in 2003. As the foreign affairs Op-Ed editor for the New York Times during this period, Scott L. Malcomson witnessed the newspaper’s struggles to deal with the threats to its city and to American security. He captures the confusion and bravery of those times with disarming honesty while also providing insight into the shaping of American (and Times) policy.
The latter half takes Malcomson to Geneva, where in early 2003 he became senior adviser to the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello. When Vieira de Mello was selected as the UN’s special representative for Iraq, Malcomson counseled him closely, writing strategy memos, speeches, and Op-Eds (including politically sensitive material revealed here for the first time). The killing of Vieira de Mello by al Qaeda in Baghdad, movingly evoked here by Malcomson, brings a measure of closure to a very brief but critical two years that, as George Packer notes in his foreword, “contain all the decisions that would set in motion the larger era.” In an epilogue, Malcomson positions the Obama administration in the context of this formative period.
"On 9/11, Malcomson was working as a Times opinion-page editor, and so experiencing events both as an average New Yorker and as a member of the class called to make sense of the events for the rest of us. In this memoir, he is true to both roles. He makes wrenching visits to his local firehouse, which lost four men in the South Tower. But he also admits to 'trying to find contributors and thinking of angles' within hours of the tower’s collapse, moved, he implies, by a sense of responsibility similar to that which brought policemen and firemen to Ground Zero. This sense of responsibility eventually led Malcomson from the Times to a diplomatic job, and his book extends beyond those first weeks to a time when the 'public memory of September 11' became 'more useful to the powerful and increasingly useless to the rest of us.' Malcomson’s book is a moving effort to restore that public memory."—New Yorker, January 24, 2011
"Malcomson's prose has a raw, sinewy feel to it, and the result is a deeply humane, pellucidly intelligent work about the world as it seemed, at least for a spell, to go dark . . ."—National Review, December 16, 2010
“Engaging…Mr. Malcomson’s book is notable for his adroit weaving of personal anecdotes with media criticism and discussion of policy. In language that is often lyrical and sometimes breathless, Mr. Malcomson offers an intelligent and deeply-felt account of a chaotic period, imbued with the poignant wisdom of retrospect.”—Prospero, The Economist’s literary blog, October 11, 2010
“A fine piece of writing: moving, civilized, gently humanizing in its tone. A timely reminder that the way forward entails a rejection of [right-wing zealotry and leftist phantasmagoria], and that only by valuing ambiguity and complexity over simplicity and totality can the ideal of a civilized humanism be saved, and the ominous threat of terror and nihilism be meaningfully opposed.”—www.nycsubwaynews.com
“Riveting.”—Foreword Magazine, November/December 2010
“Raw and urgent, capturing the sense of awe and confusion that swept over America after the [9/11] attacks.”—The New York Times, September 12, 2010
“Thoughtful, cathartic.”—The Journal News, Westchester, NY, September 11, 2010
“An urgent, tender book.”—San Francisco Chronicle, September 2, 2010
"So much has happened in the decade since September 11 that it is hard to recollect how the world seemed back then. Generation's End, an evocative memoir of how our collective consciousness has evolved since then, helps us better understand ourselves today."—Francis Fukuyama, Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
"In this original and affecting account of New York after the September 11 attacks, Scott Malcomson draws us back to a time of extraordinary clarity and exceptional confusion about America’s sense of itself and its place in the world. By doing so, he helps to make sense of where we were and where we have now arrived. This is a cathartic and honest work."—Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars and The Bin Ladens, a correspondent for the New Yorker, and president of the New America Foundation
"With the intelligence and decency of a cosmopolitan who also loves his country, Scott L. Malcomson helps us to understand both the local human consequences and the global political significance of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the attack on UN headquarters in Baghdad two years later. Generation’s End is a deeply human reflection on his own responses, as a husband and father, a friend and a colleague, a journalist and an editor, and as an American and a citizen of the world."—Kwame Anthony Appiah, author of The Honor Code and Cosmopolitanism and president of PEN American Center
"Generation’s End returns us to a harrowing period in all its confusion and loss, but this time we have a guide. Malcomson’s brave investigations lead us to a new, keen understanding of how the early years after 9/11 still shape our world today."—Colson Whitehead, author of The Colossus of New York