on 14 January 2011
I was motivated to write this review by looking at the average rating and seeing only three and a half stars; that is absurdly low for a book that is already becoming a classic. Don't be put off by the negative reviews on here which are mainly written by people with specific hobby horses or concerned about a few insignificant factual errors - but those are inevitable in a work with such breathtaking scope. If the most serious error in a book that covers the contemporary history of the whole continent is about the date of the first eurovision song contest, then that tells you that Judt gets a lot of things right.
Those who write that the first chapters are the strongest are more on the money (but then, name me a historian who can analyse the present as well as s/he can the past). And those opening chapters are simply awesome. If you don't learn to look at the second world war and its legacy in a new light, if you don't think again about the rebuilding of Europe, about the implementation of Stalinism in eastern europe and the attitudes of western intellectuals, or how the intellectual and cultural movements of western europe in the 60s and 70s interacted with the times they sprang from, then you are probably already an excellent historian in your own right and I would like to read your books as well.
You might not agree with all of his conclusions, but the fact that the book is so (in his word) opinionated is a good thing - it challenges you to work out what you yourself think and why. It avoids repeating the received wisdom, and challenges it on a great many subjects. It demands that you engage with a lot of still-live topics (cumulateively, the book adds up to a powerful argument in favour of rational social democracy). It makes cogs turn in your mind. You thought you had a picture of postwar europe in your mind's eye - Judt shows you that it was only a thumbnail. There is a lot to discover, and to contemplate.
on 8 September 2009
This is a huge piece of work. It took me more than two years to finish the entire book, and I took long breaks resting from it. Nevertheless, it was worth the effort. This volume is now one of the most important works in my collection of history books.
Three things impressed me in "Postwar".
1. English. In the globalized world where everybody seems to speak English it is quite easy to loose good taste for language, especially in the academic literature. We read books on history and science without any expectations of their language having the richness of a fictional literary work. Tony Judt certainly breaks this rule - he writes in a beautiful language, cleverly formulated sentences, and carefully constructed paragraphs. One often forgets one is reading a book on history. Thus, it was a huge pleasure to read "Postwar".
2. Broadness. The depth and broadness of topics covered is impressive. Each country, small and big, each important aspect of social life, is covered. For people mostly familiar with the history of their own country, like myself, this book will provide a lot of valuable information and a lot of insight about what was happening in other countries in Europe after 1945. Whether you would like to know about national conflicts in Belgium or the origins of the Hungarian revolution, this book is the book to look at, at least to get the most important information.
3. Objectivity. I am very pleased with the objectivity of the book. In my opinion, Tony Judt does not take any initial opinion on a subject described. The reader is left with sufficient information to have his/her own judgement on each of the topics. In this regard the present book is a pleasant exception.
In summary: a huge work, both in terms of size and in terms of quality. Highly recommended.
on 30 August 2010
The author opinion is transparent throughout every page and is the opinion of a person who has assessed thoroughly his thought with the search of facts; it also comes out as a text who has been assessed after discussions with scholars. The inner background, felt by the author, is perceivable (his religion origin, his political inclination) and some perspective is not objective, but when this happens it is well declared; this may sound as a drawback, however he is able to turn this as a powerful tool which makes the text an essential recount of this time that Europe went through. The text, finally is very enjoyable. Sometimes European history looked to me as a grey and bland epoch: it turns out as a exciting period that must be learned. I can finally understand many whys and other secret stories.
on 23 November 2005
Tony Judt's book is a lively and contentious narrative of Postwar Europe from the effects of WW2 right up to the removal of the last statue of Franco in Madrid on March 17th 2005. The key European events covered in detail: Cold War, formation of the European Union, collapse of Communism, war in the Balkans. Weaved through this is a commanding sense of social and political history from a liberal/left perspective.
It is particular strong on film [and TV] which is used to underscore political and social narratives, with plenty of illustrations from memoirs and satire. The grand theme is Europe's collective guilt over the Holocaust and how the different countries have denied, then acknowledged (or not) their roles. This theme is defining for Judt and it will continue to define Europe's collective persona for future generations. On this latter issue Judt's arguments are well illustrated with examples from literature and Europe's intellectuals - both largely ignored by the politicians.
Europe's future will be tested by whether or not it grow towards something more than just a grand market place for the exchange of goods and services.
My only regret is the lack of a thematic bibliography - bibliographical references are within the text at the bottom of the page only.
This is a big read at 830 pages - but it is engrossing
on 30 December 2012
This book gives a clear narrative of how Europe has changed and emerged from the terrible mess of the end of the Second World War. Tony Judt wrote in a clear, accessible manner and, the occasional barbed comment aside, in an unbiased manner. This is the first book that I have read by this author and the integrity of his writings became clear to me from the outset.
I write this review in December 2012 - a period of our time when the Euro is in crisis, and where the European Union is at a crossroads - and this book gives a clear account of how the Europe we know today came into being. Accounts like this are important, for they enable us, as citizens, to make clear decisions about how we want our institutions to evolve, armed as we are with a clear understanding of the historical context of how Europe became what it is today. And this is important because the debate (certainly here in the UK) has been dominated by Eurosceptics and many of the books on the subject of Europeans follow the Eurosceptic view. These books tend to be read by fellow Eurosceptics because they mirror their views and prejudices, yet there are few alternatives that are actually unbiased and which show a clear understanding of the subject.
Tony Judt's death in 2010 is a terrible loss to us all, for his books show an integrity that is sadly missing in the European sphere. I strongly recommend you read this book,whatever your views about Europe.
on 4 July 2014
A lot has been written about Europe between 1939 and 1945. Indeed, a lot went on in those years that would have a profound effect on the future of the European continent, and the world. But just what were those effects? In this masterpiece of narration, historian Tony Judt takes the reader on a journey from the ashes of 1945 right up to the middle of the 1980′s that is both enthralling in its detail and brilliantly written. True, the author is at times quite-single minded in his views on certain topics, but one can hardly expect an author to remain entirely neutral throughout a work of this scope. That said, I had no trouble distinguishing fact from opinion.
What really captivated me about this book is the sheer scope of what is covered. Far from concentrating on the west, Judt takes us behind the iron curtain, providing a clear and vivid picture not only of events, but attitudes, mindset and the thinking behind much of the cold war and its effect on both sides of the divide.
In summary, of all the books I have read on this period, this one is by far the most comprehensive. It is also written in a way that is guaranteed to captivate the reader, something that cannot be claimed by all of its contemporaries. As for who should read it, I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the state of modern Europe and the path which has led us to where we are today.
on 20 January 2014
This is no easy read. To be frank, I started reading on Kindle last August and I am 80% through. It is a massive piece of work. In his book 'Postwar' Tony Judt describes in sometimes excruciating detail, the economic, social and political changes as well as the reasons for the changes in all the countries of Europe. The work is probably most valuable as a reference on subjects such as for example; the fall of communism, the effect of the transistor radio on 1960's youth, the impact of the EU. I could go on.
Judt sometimes writes difficult sentences and has a habit of using unusual words so that frequent references to a dictionary are required. A more annoying habit is the insertion of French phrases. Frustrating to non French speakers.
These are my only criticisms. The reader gains insight into how the modern world developed as well as the idea that we take much for granted. The Europe of today is truly miraculous when seen from the perspective of the devastation in 1945.
on 11 March 2013
Judt provides a comprehensive but penetrating account of postwar Europe. There is, however, a health warning: the print in this paper back version is minute, making it very difficult to read. Much better to buy the Kindle version, which can be read in comfort. It's almost worth buying a Kindle to read this outstanding history.
on 27 October 2013
Tony Judy describes his personal observation of modern Europe in this masterwork of modern history. At the start, you feel the pain and deprivation of the immediate postwar years; e.g. from the societal collapse in Germany and devastation of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe to the economic malaise of postwar Britain to the booming optimism of the USA. He deftly describes the political conundrums of re-admitting a newly sovereign Federal Republic of Germany to a suspicious Europe. He gives us a picture of the mutual overtures between France and Germany that would form the basis for the modern EU. It is clear that without the influence of the USA, the Europe of today would simply not exist. The political and economic power of an America, always suspicious of alliances, was absolutely necessary to prevent French retribution against and/or a Soviet takeover of a defeated Germany or a return of neo-nazi rule. The postwar order was far from ideal, but as we see today, there was great wisdom in actions of the USA in precipitating the economic miracle in Western Europe.
Having not yet completed reading the book, I can't comment on the 1960s-2000s, but if Judt's description of the postwar and early cold war years are any indication, I will not be disappointed. This is a very personal history, so if you like a more detached writing style, then perhaps you may not like this book. Tony Judt explicitly states that this book contains many of his own bias and interpretations of events. I find that this adds considerably to the text and makes it eminently readable. I also think that since Tony Judt has lived on both sides of the Pond, it gives him a unique ability to write from both a European and an American perspective that will find wide appeal in the English speaking world. This book is for all those who want to understand the origins of the European Union, the history of the European Cold War and the love-hate relationship that exists between Europe and the USA, despite the fact that Europe and the USA are inextricably bound to each other and could quite be each others' salvation in the possible coming conflicts with Asia and a resurgent Russia.
on 14 August 2013
With one reservation, a really worthwhile analysis of the second half of the twentieth century. I'm not much concerned by the odd typo highlighted in one or two of the reviews: if all one can find to complain about in nearly 900 pages of densely-written text is the date of the fist Eurovision song context, then Professor Judt didn't do badly.
Inevitably, as one progresses from the distant past of the book (the 40s) and more into the realms of shared memory (the 90s), the scope for different interpretations of events grows exponentially. Put another way, his analysis of the initial period is masterful, his analysis of more recent events is sometimes a matter of opinion.
But what an opinion! I particularly like his ability, throughout the book, to spot patterns and movements. For Professor Judt history really isn't 'one thing after another', it's tectonic plates moving, and he is impressive in pointing them out. One example amongst many that springs to mind is the British tendency to see 20th century politics as a clash between Left and Right: which has left us bereft of a a paradigm for the twenty-first century, since the collapse of communism emptied that dream of any real meaning. It's better in the book.
If I have any complaint it is in the epilogue, on (he argues) the enduring place of the Holocaust in global thinking. The transition from historical analysis to straight opinionating is at its strongest here, and I felt uncomfortable that he could speak with such clarity and passion about the six million Jews who died, without so much as a mention of the other six million who died too. It's not just a matter of the numbers: if he can ignore half the people involved in a particular historic event, then one naturally asks how balanced his judgement is. That, for me, matters more than the date of Eurovision.