Nothing but a Circus
Misadventures among the Powerful
“Brilliant observations on the anthropology of power. You will laugh out loud and you won’t put it down.”
—Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics and New York Times bestselling author of Thinking, Fast and Slow
The majestic architecture that lines the streets of capital cities around the world reflects a level of power and prestige that is an enigma to some and intimidating to others. Most of what is observed of our leaders is on the two-dimensional screens on our devices, causing these people who are responsible for solving some of the world’s biggest problems to appear untouchable, far removed from ordinary people and the nations they lead. Once the powerful take the helm, society can only hope that they are doing the job that’s expected of them, and doing it well with a conscience and dedication.
Daniel Levin, international lawyer and advisor to governments and development institutions worldwide, has had unique access to high-level leaders around the globe. He is called upon to listen, assess, and offer solutions to mediate disputes, help failing or failed states, and develop future leaders among the next generation of hopeful aspirants by providing advice and insights to presidents, governments, parliaments, and diplomats. After twenty years of boarding planes with few days’ notice – sometimes even planes without doors when required – Daniel has written down some of his most remarkable and grotesque encounters in the halls of power. NOTHING BUT A CIRCUS: Misadventures among the Powerful is shocking, eye-opening, and at times hilarious, as he portrays his real-life characters in their all-too human imperfections and vanities.
Daniel felt compelled to record his first-hand experiences in NOTHING BUT A CIRCUS based on detailed diary entries over the past two decades, giving the reader a rare glimpse of the actions and conversations that take place behind closed doors – from Moscow’s puppeteering skills and manipulation of the West (sound familiar?) leading up to the Ukrainian conflict, Beijing’s power plays for Africa, Washington-style corruption and hubris, ridiculously misguided development initiatives in Angola, arrogance and ineptitude at the United Nations, to a hair-raising, hilarious adventure in a Senegalese airport prison.
With a generous sense of humor, also at his own expense when recounting his mis-steps and occasional naïveté, Daniel holds nothing back. The dialogues allow the reader to relive these terrific scenes real-time and to witness how powerful people behave when they think (or, rather, believe – as very little thinking tends to be involved) no one is watching, and the extraordinary contortions they perform in justifying their unscrupulous and self-serving actions.
“Hilarious and painful … an entertaining account”
—John Kampfner, Observer
“An engrossing read that leaves you wondering who could feel at home in this … unscrupulous world of mirrors and smokescreens”
—Fiona Wilson, The Times
“Entertaining … reveals the sometimes less-than-glittering reality of life with the global elite”
—John Gapper, Financial Times
“Tragic-funny … it makes you think”
—Melanie McDonagh, Evening Standard
“An anti-elitist screed for the Trumpite era … addictive”
—Simon Kuper, Jewish Quarterly
“Amusing and telling”
—Matthew Partridge, MoneyWeek
One of Forbes Magazine’s 13 Best Books for Summer 2017