Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century
A provocative, timely assessment of how 20th century world history was created, and what it means today, by the author of POSTWAR
As Tony Judt argues persuasively in Reappraisals, we have entered an “age of forgetting.” Today’s world is so utterly unlike the world of just twenty years ago that we have set aside our immediate past even before we could make sense of it. We literally don't know where we came from, and the results of this burgeoning ignorance are proving calamitous, with the clear prospect of worse to come. We have lost touch with three generations of international policy debate, social thought and public-spirited social activism. We no longer know how to discuss such concepts and we have forgotten the role once played by intellectuals in debating, transmitting and defending the ideas that shaped their time. In Reappraisals, Tony Judt resurrects key aspects of the world we have lost and reminds us how important they still are to us: now and to our hopes for the future.
Judt 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 understanding the European past, to the rise and fall of the state in public affairs and the displacement of history by ‘heritage’.Ranging with his trademark acuity and élan from Belgium to Israel, from the memory of Marxism to the practice of foreign policy, he takes us beyond what we think we know to show us how we came to know it, and reveals how much of our history has been sacrificed in the triumph of myth-making over understanding and denial over memory. His book is a road map back to the historical sense we urgently need.
“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”
“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”
“This is a book that should be read by anyone wishing to understand the modern world.”
Roger Moorhouse, BBC History Magazine