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4.1 out of 5 stars
Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 3 July 2013
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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on 7 April 2014
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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on 21 January 2017
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on 23 November 2015
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on 15 January 2011
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 harbor the illusion that we have no need for the past, but can start from scratch in a new century and a brave new world where, among other things, communism seems to be banished to the scrap heap of history.
This collection of essays show what a brilliant essayist he was, with additional bonus for his learned historical allusions. Even if you do not always agree with his viewpoints, you cannot but be impressed by the moral integrity and independent honesty of his descriptions of miscellaneous subjects - from Hannah Arendt to the Cold War. However serious and complicated the subjects, Tony Judt was not afraid to expose his viewpoints, often contrary to accepted truths and populist thinking of the day, in a both readable and credible manner. After having read his this collection of essays and his seminal Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945, I have become a great fan of his and I certainly want to read more of the writings he left behind after his untimely death last year.
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on 11 January 2013
A mandatory reading to understand our recent and still alive past. Profound , witty and illuminating . Tony Judt was a great man !
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on 5 April 2009
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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on 9 February 2015
Very gifted writing
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 2 April 2011
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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Not sure what's 'forgotten' about the thinkers Judt gleefully dissects, from the preposterous (Althusser, Arendt, Mary McCarthy) to the - hang on; Tony Blair? Eric Hobsbawm? Maybe they're all preposterous! The more dutiful pieces, on Koestler and Levi, inevitably have less to offer. This was the first book of Judt's to tempt me; this somewhat limp collection of off-cuts won't send me in search of more
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