Volodymyr Zelensky in His Own Words

Pegasus. Oct. 2022. 336p. ed. by Lisa Rogak. tr. from Ukrainian by Daisy Gibbons. ISBN 9781639363148. $28. POL SCI
Few recent heads of state have captured popular attention like Ukraine’s president. This versatile man conforms to some cherished ideals of what a wartime head of state should be. Many consider him a political amateur who rose to lead a freedom-loving nation besieged by a large autocracy. How Zelensky will be judged may be as uncertain as the war’s outcome, but this book collects an astonishing variety of his statements about many subjects (e.g., “On Being Alone”; “On Running for President”; “On Vladimir Putin”). The sources include social media, published speeches, and interviews. The quotations are often pithy, wise, and personal. While some readers might expect a besieged president to uphold the values of integral nationalism, Zelensky calls for Russian speakers in Eastern Ukraine (Donetsk) to be allowed to speak whatever language they want. The book suggests a statesman whose transparency exceeds the common personal deficits of politicians. Apart from a timeline of the subject’s life, there is little to recommend this book beyond the quotations themselves.
VERDICT Recommended with reservation. However impressive, Zelensky’s quotations tell relatively little about Ukraine, its politics, or the war. A book with expanded context would be more useful.
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