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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How does he do it?
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...
Published on 16 Nov 2008 by Dies Irae

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41 of 56 people found the following review helpful
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. Judt is clearly an intelligent man and a good writer besides, and for these reasons, many will find this book stimulating reading perhaps. However, his work is marred by his blowhard style and enormous intellectual ego, in...
Published on 11 May 2009 by M. A. Krul


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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
5.0 out of 5 stars Deeply intelligent, brilliant essays on major 20th century intellectuals, 2 Dec 2010
This review is from: Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century (Paperback)
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
By 
John S. McDonald (Norwich,England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century (Paperback)
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 (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century (Paperback)
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. Once again, and it IS why you read books, the second, third and fourth I had never heard of. Hobsbawm is a major British historian, who did not shed his life-time devotion to Communism, and Judt attempts to explain this, fittingly I think in the subtitle with the term "romance." The author gives high marks to Edward Said, particularly since he would tell the truth to his OWN people, "...rather than risk indulging the fawning elasticity with regard to one's own side that has disfigured the history of intellectuals since time immemorial." Furthermore, Judt says: "And by his mere presence here in New York, Edward Said was an ironic, cosmopolitan, Arab reminder of the parochialism of his critics." Judt's discussion of the alliance between the Pope and the Reagan administration, cemented by an opposition to birth control, was likewise informative.

The third part contained seven essays on various countries: two on France, one each on England, Belgium, Romania, and two on Israel. I found the one on the "non-state" of Belgium particular thoughtful. Judt's articles and reflections on Israel were sufficient to have him removed from the "masthead" at the New Republic (Judt believes in a democratic, one-state solution for all the peoples living west of the Jordan River). And France, ah, France, and its reflections on its patrimony. Likewise, some excellent thoughts.

The final part is on America. The author rehashes the Whittaker Chambers - Alger Hiss case, now that we irrefutably know that Hiss was a spy. Judt also looks at the illusionist, Henry Kissinger, and in a separate essay, the Cuban missile crisis. There are numerous informational nuggets that the author believes should be remembered: during the height of the Cold War, for example, Washington instructed "American Houses" in postwar Vienna and Salzburg to remove the works of "unsuitable" authors, and these included Arthur Miller, Leonard Bernstein, Tom Paine and Henry Thoreau. And the NYT columnist Thomas Friedman demanded that France be voted "off the island," that is, out of the Security Council, in the run up to the Iraq War. One of the most solid essays in this part is a comparison of the "Good Societies" of Europe and America.

Overall, a stimulating read. I'd demur with Judt on only one point, on page 18, where he is discussing terrorism, and names the various extremist groups of Europe, like the Basque ETA, but does not include bombs falling from planes. Definitely 5-stars, and an inspiration for being willing to fight to the very end. RIP.

(Note: Review first published at Amazon, USA, on August 13, 2010)
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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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Mr. G. Morgan "wes" (Haywards Heath, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century (Paperback)
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
By 
Mr. Anuj Ghai (London, U.K.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century (Paperback)
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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41 of 56 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Time to reappraise ex-Marxism instead, 11 May 2009
By 
M. A. Krul (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century (Paperback)
"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. Judt is clearly an intelligent man and a good writer besides, and for these reasons, many will find this book stimulating reading perhaps. However, his work is marred by his blowhard style and enormous intellectual ego, in particular his bad case of Ex-Marxist Syndrome.

It seems that it is much better for the readability of one's work as well as the sense of one's political judgement to either be a Marxist and stay one, or never to become one in the first place: ex-Marxists tend to combine the worst of both worlds. What defines the ex-Marxist's clichéd and rigid worldview? His own overwhelming sense of superiority. The ex-Marxist feels that he is the conscience of the intellectual world, because he has joined the Devil and left him again, and therefore best knows his sly tricks. But more than that, his sense of superiority demands that he always assume that when he was a Marxist, everyone should have been a Marxist and it was 'logical' to do so, and that when he left Marxism, everyone should have left Marxism, and it is criminal not to have done so. His intellectual trajectory was not just the best one, but also the only intellectually possible one, and everyone who does not follow this pattern must be either evil or deluded (and can subsequently be subjected to amateur psychoanalysis for the cause of their delusions, like in Judt's review of Hobsbawm). It is no surprise therefore that Judt, who suffers from this syndrome to a remarkable degree, in fact implies that the 'Republic of Letters' exists wholly and exclusively out of ex-Marxists! Anyone therefore who bothers with actual political analysis of contemporary and past events (like, say Hobsbawm), and largely ignores the mutual back-rubbing of this 'Republic of Letters' and its irrelevant consuls like Stephen Spender, Manès Sperber and Ignazio Silone, is to be condemned for "shutting themselves off" from Judt's little clique. Typical here also is Judt's review of the Kolakowski-E.P. Thompson correspondence; Judt writes that after reading it, nobody could take Thompson seriously again. Of course in reality, after his idiotic fawning over Kolakowski's total evasion of the actual issues, objective observers are more likely to never take Judt's judgement seriously again.

However, things are not all bleak. If one skips the insufferably conceited and wrong-headed nonsense in the first half of the book, the actual essays in the second half are very worth reading. The two essays on French history and history-writing are particularly good, and contain some brilliant summaries, and the collection also includes some of Judt's excellent critical articles about Israeli politics, which show that he has not entirely sunk in the mire of fashionable ex-leftism yet. In fact, anyone who can get fired from The New Republic for daring to say things about Israel which are wholly centrist going by world opinion must be doing something right. Less exciting are Judt's reflections on American foreign policy, but these are still decent reading.

Overall, one wishes that Judt would write more about what he is good at, in particular his specialty of French history, and less about what he thinks is worth 'reappraising', because his writing is better than his judgement. Some things forgotten are worth forgetting, and Judt's necromancy of Cold War grievances does nobody any good.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tony Judt's essays, 11 Dec 2011
By 
Palle E T Jorgensen "Palle Jorgensen" (Iowa City, Iowa United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century (Paperback)
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. Reappraisal, and Postwar are books I enjoyed reading the second time as well.
We recognize in them themes, delightful book reviews and stories; all against Tony's experiences growing up, and educated, in Europe: His early childhood in London, austerity, busses, school, trains, Eastern Europe, thinkers, Paris and Cambridge, but only Tony Judt infuse the stories with humanity and he keeps us in stitches.

For some years, I have enjoyed Tony Judt's essays and reviews in New York Review of Books; and I will miss them, sorely. My favorite bookstore and coffee shop has New York Review of Books displayed, a new one each week. I couldn't wait to read the next one of his essays. Some are now collected as a separate book, `Reappraisal': A small sample of topics: the Cuban Missile Crisis, French intellectuals, the fall of Communism, and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
Born a few years after the war, a member of the baby boom generation, Tony Judt spent his formative years in Europe, and summers in kibbutzim in Israel, spoke the languages, was early on immersed in left wing political trends, and out of all of it, he formed his own ideas later in life. In his professional life he was a Professor. (This reviewer shares these experiences.)

In his career, Tony Judt was a professor at NYU, director of the Remarque Institute, dedicated to the study of Europe, history and culture. By the way, Remarque is the author of "All Quiet at the Western Front. --- -- Review by Palle Jorgensen, Dec 2011.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Mind, 17 Dec 2010
By 
Tony Dougan (South East UK) - See all my reviews
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An extraordinary experience of a wonderfully wise and insightful mind detailing the realities and cruelties and base incompetences of politicians and their generals particularly the craziness of the 50's onwards of American Foreign Policy-which should have been titled 'How to lose friends and Alienate People' particularly the Nixon/Kissinger pairing of two highly venal extremely psychologically damaged men in charge of the most powerful country in the world. You couldn't make this stuff up.

Also excellent insights into the stupidity of Israeli behaviour in the Middle East and appreciations of Edward Said, Eric Hobsbawm, Hanna Arendt and even an attempted rehabilitation of Arthur Koestler.

Essential reading for anyone who asks the question-How did we get into this mess?

Buy it. Study it and let it inform your actions. Press it upon your friends.
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13 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written but mis-titled, 23 Dec 2009
By 
Dr. Saqib Qureshi (Dubai, UAE) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century (Paperback)
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 insight. I never got lost or confused in reading the text.
2) Judt himself seems to be quite intelligent, at least to compared to historians. His comments are sometimes thought provoking and interesting.
3) The book is useful for picking up for brief reading spells in that each chapter is brief, self-contained and tight. I ended up reading the book over several days but didn't feel difficulty in picking the thread from the previous reading session.

The 3 things which I didn't like about 'Reappraisals' are:

a) For a book which is about "Reflections on the forgotten twentieth century", there is almost no mention of South America, Africa or Asia. In short, this book extends the forgetting of precisely those geographies which have been 'forgotten'.
b) The first 4 of 23 chapters are written on Jewish writers and thinkers, and a further 2 chapters are dedicated to the Arab-Israeli dispute. This ethno-religious centricism was irritating. There are 2.6bn Indians and Chinese yet for some odd reason, Judt can't dedicate a single chapter on their politics or intellectuals.
c) There is not much which is new in this text. It is a synthesis snapshot and hotch-potch of existing materials. It would add very limited value to those familiar with 20th century history.
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