- Paperback: 464 pages
- Publisher: Vintage (5 Feb. 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0099532336
- ISBN-13: 978-0099532330
- Product Dimensions: 16 x 2.9 x 20.2 cm
- Average Customer Review: 18 customer reviews
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- #271 in Books > History > Historical Study & Educational Resources > Historiography
- #1005 in Books > Society, Politics & Philosophy > Government & Politics > Political Science & Ideology > Political Science > History
- #1811 in Books > Society, Politics & Philosophy > Social Sciences > Cultural Studies
Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century Paperback – 5 Feb 2009
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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 revealing...you 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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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)
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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