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Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century [Paperback]

Tony Judt
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 Feb 2009

In Reappraisals award-winning historian Tony Judt argues that we have entered an 'age of forgetting' where we have set aside our immediate past even before we could make sense of it. We have lost touch with generations of international policy debate, social thought and public spirited social activism - and no longer even know how to discuss such concepts - and have forgotten the role once played by intellectuals in debating, transmitting and defending the ideas that shaped their time.

Reappraisals is a masterful collection of essays, examinging the tragedy of twentieth-century Europe by way of thought-provoking pieces on Hannah Arendt, Edward Said, Albert Camus and Henry Kissinger, amongst others. It is a road map back to the historical sense we urgently need and it is essential reading.

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Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century + Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945
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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (5 Feb 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099532336
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099532330
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 127,582 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"In Reappraisals the British-born historian, now a university professor in New York, collects 23 essays, written between 1994 and 2006, in which he undertakes a ruthless dissection of the ruling illusions of the post-cold war years...There are illuminating assessments of Primo Levi and Hannah Arendt, a superb deconstruction of the fall of France in 1940, explorations of Belgium's fractured statehood and the ambiguous position of Romania in Europe, analyses of the Cuba crisis and Kissinger's diplomacy, and much else besides...Judt is a liberal thinker dedicated to demystifying liberal illusions. Reappraisals is an indispensable tract for the times by one of the great political writers of the age" (John Gray Guardian)

"Judt is a highly readable authority... He delivers the intellectual's equivalent of a left hook...the uppercut soon follows...and finally, a knockout punch...The intellectual's intellectual" (Niall Ferguson Financial Times)

"Tony Judt...has an enviable grasp of European cultural history and a sharp and sometimes savage turn of phrase, both of which are well displayed in this collection of long essays and book reviews...[He is] shrewd and feel you have been eavesdropping on a sparkling conversation" (The Economist)

"An exhilarating new collection of essays...In Reappraisals he looks back at the tragedy of Europe in the 20th century - although one should really say the four decades from the outbreak of World War I until the death of Stalin - and in particular at the Jewish tragedy. Judt writes informatively about Manès Sperber, tenderly about Primo Levi, enthusiastically about Hannah Arendt... Few are better than Tony Judt, not only a historian of the first rank but (in a word we need an equivalent for) a politicologue who gives engagement a good name" (Geoffrey Wheatcroft International Herald Tribune)

"A superb collection of essays" (Daily Telegraph)


`A collection of provocative and enlightening essays by a leading historian of modern Europe'.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How does he do it? 16 Nov 2008
The phrase 'towering intellect' is overused, but when you consider the astonishing range of knowledge that informs Judt's collection of essays, it's a cliche you find yourself falling back on. Judt has an encyclopedic grasp of the history of global politics of the past century, and a cultured sensibility and clear writing style which make him a joy to read. He was one of the first people to realise, and write about, the essential vacuity of Tony Blair ('the gnome in the garden of Britain's heritage'), and he offers similarly impassioned and well-informed insights into the Cuban Missile Crisis, the fall of Communism, and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, as well as providing insightful reviews of the works of Arthur Koestler, Edward Said, and many other major figures. I don't agree with everything he says (he is, for one thing, a little too soft on Koestler's sexual politics, to say the least), but this is still a highly informative and thought-provoking book.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By bobbygw
Terrific. Insightful critical appreciations of keynote thinkers in the 20th century, including brilliant essays on Hannah Arendt, Leszek Kolowkowski [that incorporates a deliciously scathing attack on the historian Eric Hobsbawm's blind allegiance to communist regimes and communist thinking] and Primo Levi. Also compelling critiques relating to Israel, Tony Blair and others. Wonderful writing, provocative and well worth the read. Highly recommended.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Necessary reappaisals 5 April 2009
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Following his brillian book "Post war" Tony Judt has had reprinted a series of book reviews from various sources dealing with people and issues from,principally post war Europe,but there are also some incisive comments on US politics and society(Cuba,Cold war attitudes and loss of liberalism in US society). Each essay is stimulating and some are deliberately provocative,esp. to the dominant social conservative attitudes of the period since 1995.A must for any intelligent reader capable of seeing through neo-con prejudices.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A guiding light of reason to the end... 2 April 2011
By John P. Jones III TOP 500 REVIEWER
Tony Judt died last week, after a brave fight against what is still often called Lou Gehrig's disease, (amyothrophic lateral sclerosis), at least in the United States. He published his reflections on the events of today until the very end. This book, issued within the last two years, is a valuable compendium of his thoughts about the people and events of the 20th Century that helped shape our current world.

Most of the essays first appeared in the New York Review of Books. In his introduction he addresses the issue of why they are still relevant; he is quite concern that the post-World War II world is now already half forgotten, (which is reflected in the sub-title) and he bemoans the fact that the last decade and a half has been marked by so much lost opportunity. He is an intellectual of the first-rate, his range is wide, his arguments and analysis lucid, and he can definitely "ruffle some feathers."

The book is divided into four parts; the first contains four essays on Jews who were forced into exile from their home in mitteleuropa. No doubt his interests were intensified since these individuals followed rough trajectories of his parent's lives. The four are Arthur Koestler, Primo Levi, Manes Sperber and Hannah Arendt. Only the third writer I had neither read, nor even heard of. I too found Levi's discussion of the Grey Zone in The Drowned and the Saved (Abacus Books) notable. Likewise, Judt's discussion of the work and biographies of Koestler and Arendt.

The second part contained six essays on intellectuals (and one Pope!). They are Albert Camus, Louis Althusser, Eric Hobsbawm, Leszek Kolakowski, John Paul II and Edward Said.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, so much missed. 3 July 2013
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I knew Judt a little, from his contributions to the London Review of Books, where I always enjoyed his essays. This book is a treat and, to be sure, this man minces no words: as a frustrated reader (failed) of Althusser I was delighted to see his described as 'Higher Drivel' and his disingenuous autobiography identified as such; throughout Judt is as determined in his opinions, firmly reinstating Camus as a man to take seriously (while dismissing the philosophy); his appreciation of Edward Said will annoy half of Israel (significantly, tellingly NOT the others, who won't call him a self-hating jew, which one can see coming from elsewhere); his rehabilitation of Koestler made me reconsider this rather forgotten figure; his piece on Levi is judicious and confirms one in one's wonder at this astonishing, admirable man....I could go on, but take it from me, there is a treat on every page: you may disagree with him but Judt is very intelligent, deeply learned, interesting and has written what for me is a real page-turner. And it repays many rereadings (three for me in a year).
His cruel death has robbed us of a brilliant writer; oh for his view on the Iraq, Afghanistan and such matters. Get this book!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Deeply prescient. 7 April 2014
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In this deeply prescient anthology of essays, Judt warns readers against the temptation “to look back upon the twentieth century as an age of political extremes, of tragic mistakes and wrongheaded choices; an age of delusion from which we have now, thankfully, emerged.” He persuasively, and quite passionately, reminds us that the past is pregnant with lessons and warnings that we ignore at our peril: moving forward successively requires, Judt argues, an intimate familiarity with the failures and achievements of the past and the humble if not also unsettling recognition that our present century is as fraught with dangers and uncertainties as the last. Drawing upon a remarkably broad array of figures and themes, Judt explores the past with the aim of illuminating the present. With deep sensitivity to the writings of his subjects and the idiosyncrasies of his themes, he demonstrates the relevance of the past to the predicaments of our time and in so doing reminds us of the deep and inalterable continuities that bind generations (in their predicaments) seamlessly together. His essays on Eric Hobsbawm and Edward Said are particularly good and demonstrative of his acuity as a commentator and modern historian.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Full of informations and insight
A mandatory reading to understand our recent and still alive past. Profound , witty and illuminating . Tony Judt was a great man !
Published 19 months ago by Riccardo Meliconi
4.0 out of 5 stars Fisticuffs between people and ideas (the ideas come off worse)
Judt has a nice turn of phrase. He calls Eric Hobsbawm a Communist mandarin and Stalin an oriental despot. (A bit racist, Tony? Read more
Published on 10 July 2012 by Simon Barrett
5.0 out of 5 stars Tony Judt's essays
Of Tony Judt's other books, `Postwar' is best known. Tony was an unparalleled master of modern history, and of the English language. That alone gives me much reading pleasure. Read more
Published on 11 Dec 2011 by Palle E T Jorgensen
5.0 out of 5 stars A Turbulent Century Revisited
Tony Judt was a fine historian and an intellectual in the proper sense of that term. Looking back at the 20th century he urges us to draw a lesson from past experiences and not to... Read more
Published on 15 Jan 2011 by Leif Asbjørnsen
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Mind
An extraordinary experience of a wonderfully wise and insightful mind detailing the realities and cruelties and base incompetences of politicians and their generals particularly... Read more
Published on 17 Dec 2010 by Tony Dougan
2.0 out of 5 stars Too much
Judt's writing capabilities are outstanding.His ego is blown up in his texts. Reading his "Reappraisals" you enter into a whirlwind you enjoy at the beginning. Read more
Published on 23 Sep 2010 by PHILIP
4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing view
Tony Judt always provides a new vision of history. This book is a proof of this. Very interesting and refreshing.
Published on 23 July 2010 by Carmen
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written but mis-titled
The 3 things which I like about this piece of work are:

1) It's very well written. Judt's writing style makes for easy reading without losing anything on rigour or... Read more
Published on 23 Dec 2009 by Dr. Saqib Qureshi
3.0 out of 5 stars Time to reappraise ex-Marxism instead
"Reappraisals" collects a series of book reviews and essays by prominent historian Tony Judt, most of them written for the New York Review of Books. Read more
Published on 11 May 2009 by M. A. Krul
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