NEW YORK — Jonathan Schell, the author, journalist and anti-war activist who condemned conflicts from Vietnam to Iraq and warned of a nuclear holocaust in terrifying detail in his galvanizing best seller, “The Fate of the Earth,” has died at age 70.

Schell’s companion, Irena Gross, told The Associated Press that he died Tuesday at their home in New York City. The cause was cancer, she said Wednesday.

With a hatred of war shaped in part by his eyewitness accounts of U.S. military operations in Vietnam, Schell wrote for decades about the consequences of violence – real and potential – with a rage and idealism that never seemed to wane.

As gentle in person as he was impassioned on paper, Schell was a reporter and columnist for The New Yorker and Newsday among others and a longtime writer for The Nation, where his most recent column appeared in the fall.

He wrote several books, notably “The Village of Ben Suc” about Vietnam and “The Fate of the Earth,” published in 1982 during an especially tense moment of the Cold War.

With the conservative Ronald Reagan in the White House, “Fate of the Earth” seemed to capture the fears of anti-nuclear protesters, who at the time were calling for a weapons freeze.


“The machinery of destruction is complete, poised on a hair trigger, waiting for the ‘button’ to be ‘pushed’ by some misguided or deranged human being or for some faulty computer chip to send out the instruction to fire,” Schell wrote in the book, which drew upon a series of articles for The New Yorker and which he was inspired to write after hearing government officials talk of fighting a limited nuclear war.

“That so much should be balanced on so fine a point – that the fruit of four and a half billion years can be undone in a careless moment – is a fact against which belief rebels.”

“Fate of the Earth” received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and was praised for compelling readers to think about the arms race.

His other books include “The Gift of Time: The Case for Abolishing Nuclear Weapons Now” and “The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger.”

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