“For more than forty years Roger Cohen has ventured to every corner of the earth to chronicle the great upheavals of our age, but he’s never lost sight of what really matters: love, hope, and all the mysteries of the human heart. Here, in this collection of columns that will take you from the streets of Kyiv to an execution chamber in Alabama, you can read him at his best.”—Dexter Filkins, best-selling author of The Forever War

A collection of the finest New York Times columns written by Roger Cohen over more than a decade, accompanied by an original, twenty-thousand-word essay on the state of the world

The countless readers who followed Roger Cohen’s column and mourned its end responded above all to what they saw as the marriage in his writing of head and heart. That tenor permeates An Affirming Flame.

During his twelve years as a columnist, Cohen aimed to hold power to account at home and abroad, in the name of freedom, decency, pluralism, and the importance of truth and dissent in open societies. He watched with alarm as the outside threat of 9/11 morphed into the internal threat of January 6. This time, the assailants were not jihadi terrorists; they were American white supremacists and seditionists convinced of American decadence but unable to see that they personified it. The threat to American democracy is clear.

Cohen dissects this ominous American fracture. He explores themes of displacement, belonging, and his own imperiled craft of journalism. His examination of the rising tide of authoritarian rule takes him to China, and in Kyiv he sees the devastating impact of Vladimir Putin's Russian nationalism. With its trenchant consideration of the plight of refugees, COVID-19, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the war in Afghanistan, Cohen's writing reflects his belief in the unquenchable human quest for dignity.

He captures the fight to defend America’s openness, democratic institutions, and ideals against the rising tide of retrogression, division, and assault on truth. This struggle, as Cohen writes, is also the world’s. It is inseparable from the battle to save humanity from the creeping autocracy of the twenty-first century. As he writes, “On lies is tyranny built.”
“Roger Cohen’s columns are never less than cogent and well informed but his writing has another quality too, a wistful, even elegiac, lyricism, which means that this collection will endure long after the political issues it addresses have been forgotten.”—Sigrid Rausing, editor of Granta

“There’s surely no one to compare with Roger Cohen for the combination of intelligence, eloquence, and breadth of lived experience that he brings to his articles and columns. But it’s a more elusive quality that keeps me hungering for his commentary. Partly it’s the sheer, restless intensity of his urge to bear witness, whether from hot wars or peaceful uprisings, from remote migrant camps or bastions of global power, from desecrated landscapes or places of still unruined beauty. But it’s also his willingness to situate himself in the midst of any given crisis, not just as an observer, but as a human being with his own history, his own complex feelings, his capacity for pleasure as well as indignation, above all his passionate attachment to the values of tolerance, decency and individual dignity, in the face of dimming prospects for all three. Here, along with a superb selection of pieces from the last fifteen years, is an extended introductory essay in which he maps out the contours of this ‘Age of Undoing’ with brilliant lucidity, while tracing his own remarkable journey across its fault lines. I can’t imagine a better guide to the reality of our times.”—James Lasdun, author of The Fall Guy

“Roger Cohen’s unfailing moral compass is on full display in these elegantly written, deeply considered essays. The only political columnist who can quote Donald Trump and Wisława Szymborska with equal ease, Cohen investigates the space from truth to beauty and back again, telling us all we need to know.”—Ruth Franklin, author of Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life

“Roger Cohen takes it all on. History, hatred, war, Trump. He’s a deeply-traveled reporter, distinguished author, and, here, a newspaper columnist. Cohen claims the title ‘citizen of the world’ proudly, and its breadth is the key to his kaleidoscopic insight.”—William Finnegan, author of Barbarian Days

“Few journalists write with the authority and eloquence of Roger Cohen, the foreign correspondent of South African descent with a British education and an American passport whose columns for The New York Times were indispensable. An Affirming Flame is the brilliant consummation of that run: a searching examination of our ‘Age of Undoing,’ tempered by a powerfully persuasive insistence upon the necessity of hope.”—Janny Scott, author of The Beneficiary: Fortune, Misfortune, and the Story of My Father

“For more than forty years Roger Cohen has ventured to every corner of the earth to chronicle the great upheavals of our age, but he’s never lost sight of what really matters: love, hope, and all the mysteries of the human heart. Here, in this collection of columns that will take you from the streets of Kyiv to an execution chamber in Alabama, you can read him at his best.”—Dexter Filkins, best-selling author of The Forever War

“Roger Cohen is a wanderer, an omnivore, a tireless pursuer of human decency in the darkest places. These columns of fifteen years make up a lyrical and deeply personal history of the present.”—George Packer, author of Last Best Hope

“Shrewd analysis and often prescient insight . . . A stirring collection of cultural critique, penetrating reportage, and candid autobiography . . . [An Affirming Flame is] a collection of perceptive, astute journalism from a master at the craft.”Kirkus Review (starred review)

“Erudite . . . Incisive quotes litter the collection, highlighting Cohen’s skills as an observer and demystifier of complex geopolitical events. The result is a master class in opinion writing.”Publishers Weekly