Profile Books and Wellcome Collection have acquired The War of Nerves, an account of the Cold War by writer and broadcaster Martin Sixsmith.
Kirty Topiwala, publisher at Wellcome Collection, acquired world rights in all languages from Peter Straus at RCW. The War of Nerves will be published in hardback in 2020.
It is more than a quarter of a century since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but the legacy of the Cold War still endures. Sixsmith witnessed the end of the Cold War first hand, reporting for the BBC from Moscow during the presidencies of Gorbachev and Yeltsin. This book is said to combine his two great intellectual passions – Russia and psychology – and take us into the minds of those affected, on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
Drawing on a "vast array of untapped archives and unseen sources", Sixsmith will "vividly recreate" the tensions of the Cold War – the hatred, the paranoia, the terror. Homing in on particular characters, moments and meetings, he revisits towering personalities like Khrushchev, Kennedy and Nixon, and explores the lives of some of the unknown millions who were caught up in the conflict. "This will be a gripping account of fear itself – and in today’s uncertain times, more resonant than ever", the publisher said.
Topiwala said: "I am deliriously happy and proud to have acquired The War of Nerves by Martin Sixsmith. This will be a profoundly important book that could only have been written with more than a quarter of a century’s hindsight and yet will resonate in the fearful times we live in today. I can think of no one better to breathe new life into this perennially fascinating topic."
Sixsmith said: "A couple of years ago, the psychology of the Cold War was a subject of fascinating historical interest. Today, with a second East-West ice age chilling the planet, it has a new and compelling urgency. The thought processes of those who led our nations into confrontation, their hopes, fears and often devious designs; the methods used to mould the psyche of their populations; and the devastating emotional impact on the millions who lived in daily terror of nuclear conflagration are things we need to be reminded of. The more I explore the messages of mistrust and hatred in the art, literature, film and propaganda of the Cold War, the more I fear their relevance today."