Alexander Stille is a journalist and author of six books as well as a professor of international journalism at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. Stille grew up in New York, the son of an American mother and an Italian father (of Russian Jewish origin) who had been forced to leave Italy because of Mussolini’s racial laws. His first book, Benevolence and Betrayal: Five Italian Jewish Families Under Fascism, was about the experience of Italian Jews during the fascist period. The New York Times review called it “an achievement that deserves to stand next to the most insightful fiction about life and death under Fascism” and it won the Los Angeles Times book award for non-fiction. Stille lived for several years in Italy, in Milan and in Rome in the 1980s and early 1990s when he was reporting actively on Italian politics for The Boston Globe, The Toronto Globe & Mail, U.S. News & World Report as well as The New Yorker. His second book (published in 1995), Excellent Cadavers: The Mafia and the Death of the First Italian Republic described the careers of the Siclian anti-mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino and the interconnections between political corruption and organized crime that brought down the Italian political system in the early 1990s. Richard Bernstein in the New York Times wrote: “Mr. Stille’s book is the meticulously researched history of a 20-year campaign against criminality in Italy, but it is very good social and political history as well……. Mr. Stille manages to strike just the right tone in “Excellent Cadavers,” allowing the facts to speak for themselves, resisting the temptation to sensationalize or novelize or titillate the reader with lurid reconstructions of events. Mr. Stille…is a writer to watch.”

His third book, “The Future of the Past,” (2002) is a book about the cultural impact of rapid technological change, the ways in which we are losing various forms of traditional knowledge during the information age. Many of the chapters first appeared as stories in The New Yorker. The novelist Jennifer Egan in reviewing the book, wrote, Alexander Stille’s illuminating and engrossing new book, The Future of the Past…provides a fresh, lively and ultimately wrenching display of a world transforming itself irrevocably.” “The Force of Things: A Marriage in War and Peace” (2013) is Stille’ most personal book, a family memoir that traces the lives of two families across the twentieth century. The first, his father’s begins in Czarist Russia and fascist Italy, the second, his mother’s in the American Midwest. They meet at a party in New York in 1949 and the result is a stormy, intense inter-cultural marriage. In its review, The New Yorker wrote: “Stille uses the domestic drama as a starting point for a sweeping narrative that blends memoir, history, and psychology, and spans generations and continents….Moving effortlessly between the intimate and the grand, Stille shows how our lives acquire meaning.” His sixth and most recent book, The Sullivanians: Sex, Psychotherapy and the Wild Life of an Urban Commune describes the forty-year history of a remarkable community that began as a psychoanalytic institute (The Sullivan Institute) evolved into a community of 250 to 300 people and devolved during the 1970s into something more like a cult. “A brilliantly written, sobering investigation of a secret society within plain sight,” the Kirkus Review wrote.

The Sullivanians

The devolution of the Sullivan Institute, from psychoanalytic organization to insular, radical cult.

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