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Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Centuryby Tony Judt
"The head of the Remarque Institute at New York University, Judt has moonlighted as a prolific and provocative essayist. Now a new collection of essays...confirms Judt as one of the most versatile public intellectuals working in the English language today. In twenty-four pieces, he covers an astonishingly broad range of twentieth-century life — from Whittaker Chambers to the state of the railways in Europe — almost always writing with authority, anchored in a depth and breadth of reading that few could match." Jonathan Freedland, The New York Review of Books (read the entire New York Review of Books review)
Synopses & Reviews
From one of our greatest historians and public intellectuals, reflections on a twentieth century that is turning into ancient history, when it's not being displaced by myth or forgotten entirely, with unprecedented speed and at great cost.
The accelerating changes of the past generation have been accompanied by a comparably accelerated amnesia. The twentieth century has become "history" at an unprecedented rate. The world of 2007 is so utterly unlike that of even 1987, much less any earlier time, that we have lost touch with our immediate past even before we have begun to make sense of it. In less than a generation, the headlong advance of globalization, with the geographical shifts of emphasis and influence it brings in its wake, has altered the structures of thought that had been essentially unchanged since the European industrial revolution. Quite literally, we don't know where we came from.
The results have proved calamitous thus far, with the prospect of far worse. We have lost touch with a century of social thought and socially motivated social activism. We no longer know how to discuss such concepts and have forgotten the role once played by intellectuals in debating, transmitting, and defending the ideas that shaped their time. In Reappraisals, Tony Judt resurrects the key aspects of the world we have lost in order to remind us how important they still are to us now and to our hopes for the future.
Reappraisals draws provocative connections between a dazzling range of subjects, from the history of the neglect and recovery of the Holocaust and the challenge of "evil" in the understanding of the European past to the rise and fall of the "state" in public affairs and the displacement of history by "heritage." With his trademark acuity and lan, Tony Judt takes us beyond what we think we know to show us how we came to know it and reveals how many aspects of our history have been sacrificed in the triumph of mythmaking over understanding, collective identity over truth, and denial over memory. His book is a road map back to the historical sense we so vitally need.
"Historian and political commentator Judt warns 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.' In this collection of 24 previously printed essays (nearly all from the New York Review of Books and the New Republic), Judt, whose recent book Postwar was a Pulitzer finalist, pleads with readers to remember that the past never completely disappears and that the coming century is as fraught with dangers as the last. Buttressing his argument, Judt draws upon an impressively broad array of subjects. He begins by describing the eclipse of intellectuals as a public force (for instance, the steep decline in Arthur Koestler's reputation) before reminding his audience of the immense power of ideas by discussing the now inexplicable attractions of Marxism in the 20th century. In the book's penultimate section, Judt examines the rise of the state in the politics and economics of Western nations before finally tackling the United States, its foreign policy and the fate of liberalism. As a fascinating exploration of the world we have recently lost — for good or bad, or both — this collection, despite its lack of new content, cannot be bested." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
From one of the greatest historians and public intellectuals come these reflections on a 20th century that is turning into ancient history with unprecedented speed, and at great cost to understanding and truth.
We have entered an age of forgetting. Our world, we insist, is unprecedented, wholly new. The past has nothing to teach us. Drawing provocative connections between a dazzling range of subjects, from Jewish intellectuals and the challenge of evil in the recent European past to the interpretation of the Cold War and the displacement of history by heritage, the late historian Tony Judt takes us beyond what we think we know of the past to explain how we came to know it, showing how much of our history has been sacrificed in the triumph of myth-making over understanding and denial over memory. Reappraisals offers a much-needed road map back to the historical sense we urgently need.
Tony Judt is one of today's leading historians and thinkers. Winner of the Hannah Arendt Prize in 2007, his previous book, Postwar, was hailed as "monumental . . . a tour de force"by Foreign Affairs, among other leading publications. In Reappraisals, he persuasively argues that we have entered an "age of forgetting." Drawing provocative connections between a dazzling range of subjects, from Jewish intellectuals and the challenge of evil in the recent European past to the interpretation of the Cold War to the displacement of history by heritage, Judt takes us beyond what we think we know of the past to explain how we came to know it, and shows how much of our history has been sacrificed in the triumph of myth-making over understanding and denial over memory.
About the Author
Tony Judt was the Erich Maria Remarque Professor of European Studies at New York University, as well as the founder and director of the Remarque Institute, dedicated to creating an ongoing conversation between Europe and the United States. He was educated at Kings College, Cambridge, and the École Normale Supérieure, Paris, and also taught at Cambridge, Oxford, and Berkeley. Professor Judt was a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, The New Republic, The New York Times, and many journals across Europe and the United States. He is the author or editor of fifteen books, including Thinking the Twentieth Century, The Memory Chalet, Ill Fares the Land, Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century, and Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, which was one of The New York Times Book Reviews Ten Best Books of 2005, the winner of the Council on Foreign Relations Arthur Ross Book Award, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He died in August 2010 at the age of sixty-two.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The World We Have Lost
Part One: The Heart of Darkness
Chapter I: Arthur Koestler, the Exemplary Intellectual
Chapter II: The Elementary Truths of Primo Levi
Chapter III: The Jewish Europe of Manes Sperber
Chapter IV: Hannah Arendt and Evil
Part Two: The Politics of Intellectual Engagement
Chapter V: Albert Camus: "The best man in France"
Chapter VI: Elucubrations: The "Marxism" of Louis Althusser
Chapter VII: Eric Hobsbawm and the Romance of Communism
Chapter VIII: Goodbye to All That? Leszek Kotakowski and the Marxist Legacy
Chapter IX: A "Pope of Ideas"? John Paul II and the Modern World
Chapter X: Edward Said: The Rootless Cosmopolitan
Part Three: Lost in Transition: Places and Memories
Chapter XI: The Catastrophe: The Fall of France, 1940
Chapter XII: A la recherche du temps perdu: France and Its Pasts
Chapter XIII: The Gnome in the Garden: Tony Blair and Britain's "Heritage"
Chapter XIV: The Stateless State: Why Belgium Matters
Chapter XV: Romania between History and Europe
Chapter XVI: Dark Victory: Israel's Six-Day War
Chapter XVII: The Country That Wouldn't Grow Up
Part Four: The American (Half-) Century
Chapter XVIII: An American Tragedy? The Case of Whittaker Chambers
Chapter XIX: The Crisis: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Cuba
Chapter XX: The Illusionist: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy
Chapter XXI: Whose Story Is It? The Cold War in Retrospect
Chapter XXII: The Silence of the Lambs: On the Strange Death of Liberal America
Chapter XXIII: The Good Society: Europe vs. America
Envoi: The Social Question Redivivus
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