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A HOMAGE TO MEMORY,
This review is from: The Memory Chalet (Kindle Edition)
It turns out that I had a lot in common with Tony Judt. Born in 1948; grammar school education, followed by Oxbridge in 1966; mid-life crisis; life-long interest in history; but there the similarities end. He was Jewish, much-married and a professional historian, and he eventually took American citizenship. In some respects he resembled Christopher Hitchens more - both lived in the USA, and travelled a long way from their revolutionary origins; and both have died this year, Judt from motor neurone disease, Hitchens from cancer. Both were men of ideas, indeed 'public intellectuals', though their ideas about George Bush, 9/11 and the Iraq War were poles apart.
'The Memory Chalet' is like a hymn, written in praise of memory. Judt writes brilliantly about his youthful idealisms and misconceptions; about Zionism and the kibbutzniks he knew as a teenager; about Cambridge and Paris in 1968; about French intellectuals; Switzerland; the United States and much else. My favourite story is the one about the Maoist whom he met in Paris around 1970. The Maoist said he was in favour of burning down the college library. Judt suggested it was better to wait, in case one changed one's mind. The Maoist said that was 'a very British conclusion.'
He remained a man 'of the Left'; but one might wonder why, when he so obviously thought that the abolition of the grammar schools had been a big mistake; cherished many values which his younger students found distinctly old fashioned; and clearly loved America. Not everything one reads in the 'Daily Telegraph' is necessarily wrong; and not everything that Tony Blair did was necessarily wrong either. Judt was very broad minded in maturity; but I wonder if he did not retain some of his youthful antipathy to all things Conservative and conservative.
Judt sounds like a very likeable man (though the two failed marriages might make one wonder about whether everyone thought so). The ending is sad; but at the same time uplifiting.