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Thinking the Twentieth Centuryby Tony Judt and Timothy Snyder
Synopses & Reviews
An unprecedented and original history of intellectual life throughout the past century.
Thinking the Twentieth Century is the final book of unparalleled historian and indomitable public critic Tony Judt. Where Judt's masterpiece Postwar redefined the history of modern Europe by uniting the stories of its eastern and western halves, Thinking the Twentieth Century unites the century's conflicted intellectual history into a single soaring narrative. The twentieth century comes to life as the age of ideas-a time when, for good or for ill, the thoughts of the few reigned over the lives of the many. Judt presents the triumphs and the failures of public intellectuals, adeptly extracting the essence of their ideas and explaining the risks of their involvement in politics. Spanning the entire era and all currents of thought in a manner never previously attempted, Thinking the Twentieth Century is a triumphant tour de force that restores clarity to the classics of modern thought with the assurance and grace of a master craftsman.
The exceptional nature of this work is evident in its very structure — a series of luminous conversations between Judt and his friend and fellow historian Timothy Snyder, grounded in the texts of their trade and focused by the intensity of their vision. Judt's astounding eloquence and range of reference are here on display as never before. Traversing the century's complexities with ease, he and Snyder revive both thoughts and thinkers, guiding us through the debates that made our world. As forgotten treasures are unearthed and overrated thinkers are dismantled, the shape of a century emerges. Judt and Snyder make us partners in their project as we learn the ways to think like a historian or even like a public intellectual. We begin to experience the power of historical perspective for the critique and reform of society, and for the pursuit of the good and the true from day to day.
In restoring and indeed exemplifying the best of the intellectual life of the twentieth century, Thinking the Twentieth Century charts a pathway for moral life in the twenty-first. An incredible achievement, Thinking the Twentieth Century is about the life of the mind-and about the mindful life.
"In this scintillating series of conversations undertaken as he was dying of Lou Gehrig's Disease, British-American historian Judt (The Memory Chalet) and his interlocutor Snyder (Bloodlands) survey the triumphs and barbarities of the past century through the lens of the thinkers and ideologues who shaped it. Interleaving autobiographical sketches with fluent, freewheeling discussions of history, politics, and culture, Judt revisits crucial 20th-century intellectual currents: the impact of two world wars and the Great Depression on politics and philosophy; the development of and rivalry between communist and fascist dogmas; the success of social democracy and Keynesian economics in bringing liberal government, broad-based growth, and social equality to the post-war world; and the retreat from those achievements prompted by free-market fundamentalism's attack on the activist state. (He also reprises his criticism of Israel after recalling summers on the kibbutz.) Judt's ability to distill heaps of erudition into lucid, pithy conversation, even when on a breathing apparatus, is astonishing; he's as engaging on the religious dimensions of Marxism and Freudianism as on Obama and the Iraq War. Snyder, a historian and former student of Judt's, contributes probing interjections that stimulate and test his mentor's ideas. The result is a lively, browsable, deeply satisfying meditation on recent history by a deservedly celebrated public intellectual." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Incandescent on every page with intellectual energy." Pankaj Mishra, Prospect Magazine (UK)
The triumphant final book by Tony Judt, indomitable public critic and author of Postwar.
One of our most brilliant historians, Tony Judt brings the past century vividly to life in this unprecedented and original history. Structured as a series of intimate conversations between Judt and his friend and fellow historian Timothy Snyder, Thinking the Twentieth Century presents the triumphs and the failures of the twentieth century's most prominent intellectuals and their ideas, guiding readers through the debates that defined our world. Spanning an era with unprecedented clarity and insight, Thinking the Twentieth Century is a tour de force: a masterful analysis of the life of the mind and an unforgettable guide to leading the mindful life.
The final book of the brilliant historian and indomitable public critic Tony Judt, Thinking the Twentieth Century maps the issues and concerns of a turbulent age on to a life of intellectual conflict and engagement.
The twentieth century comes to life as an age of ideas — a time when, for good and for ill, the thoughts of the few reigned over the lives of the many. Judt presents the triumphs and the failures of prominent intellectuals, adeptly explaining both their ideas and the risks of their political commitments. Spanning an era with unprecedented clarity and insight, Thinking the Twentieth Century is a tour-de-force, a classic engagement of modern thought by one of the century's most incisive thinkers.
The exceptional nature of this work is evident in its very structure — a series of intimate conversations between Judt and his friend and fellow historian Timothy Snyder, grounded in the texts of the time and focused by the intensity of their vision. Judt's astounding eloquence and range are here on display as never before. Traversing the complexities of modern life with ease, he and Snyder revive both thoughts and thinkers, guiding us through the debates that made our world. As forgotten ideas are revisited and fashionable trends scrutinized, the shape of a century emerges. Judt and Snyder draw us deep into their analysis, making us feel that we too are part of the conversation. We become aware of the obligations of the present to the past, and the force of historical perspective and moral considerations in the critique and reform of society, then and now.
In restoring and indeed exemplifying the best of intellectual life in the twentieth century, Thinking the Twentieth Century opens pathways to a moral life for the twenty-first. This is a book about the past, but it is also an argument for the kind of future we should strive for: Thinking the Twentieth Century is about the life of the mind — and the mindful life.
About the Author
Tony Judt (1948–2010) was the author or editor of fifteen books, including The Memory Chalet and Postwar, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He was the director and founder of the Remarque Institute and a professor at New York University.
Timothy Snyder is a professor of history at Yale University and the author of five award-winning books, most recently Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.
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