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A collection of stirring, poignant personal essays from Tony Judt, one of our leading historians.

“It might be thought the height of poor taste to ascribe good fortune to a healthy man with a young family struck down at the age of sixty by an incurable degenerative disorder from which he must shortly die. But there is more than one sort of luck. To fall prey to a motor neuron disease is surely to have offended the Gods at some point, and there is nothing more to be said. But if you must suffer thus, better to have a well-stocked head…” –Tony Judt

The Memory Chalet is a memoir unlike any you have ever read before. Each essay charts some experience or remembrance of the past through the sieve of Tony Judt’s prodigious mind. His youthful love of a particular London bus route evolves into a reflection on public civility and interwar urban planning. Memories of the 1968 student riots of Paris meander through the divergent sex politics of Europe, before concluding that his generation ‘was a revolutionary generation, but missed the revolution’. A series of roadtrips across America lead not just to an appreciation of American history, but to an eventual acquisition of citizenship. Foods and trains and long-lost smells all compete for Judt’s attention; but for us, he has forged his reflections into an elegant arc of analysis. All as simply and beautifully arranged as a Swiss chalet — a reassuring refuge deep in the mountains of memory.

Reviews

A book to treasure...The chambers of his memory chalet will live on long after him: witty, profound, controversial...for they tell you, more clearly than any work of imagination, what the last few months of life are like. In a sense, you learn how to die yourself...Wonderfully written...He has the natural essayist's ability to riff on a diverting theme...Through these pages, he emerges as a wellspring of enlightenment you need to spend time with...A slim volume that oscillates constantly between brilliance and exasperation and love. He has the eye for detail of a historian, and the empathy of a human being...Will move, educate and perhaps inspire for many years. This chalet is built of stone, on the firmest foundations.

Peter Preston, Observer

Tony Judt, had a wonderful prose style, and his little book The Memory Chalet, a collection of autobiographical essays, is beautiful and moving. Although Judt, who suffered from motor neurone disease, died earlier this year, this late work is more sustaining than sad.

John Banville, Guardian, Books of the Year

My book of the year is the volume of essays, The Memory Chalet, many of which were written as he was dying of motor neurone disease and were published originally in The New York Review of Books. Judt was one of the finest historians of the past half-century and a brilliant memoirist and essayist.

Chris Patten, Financial Times, Books of the Year

In examining his past, Judt has managed to write what amounts to a Bildungsroman of one of the most distinctive writerly personas of the age. At the same time, he has told us something important about ourselves: about what we were and what we have become.

Jonathan Derbyshire, New Statesman

I've been deeply moved by Tony Judt's reminiscence-in-essays.

Claire Messud, Daily Telegraph, Books of the Year

Faced with the prospect of death [Tony Judt has] produced a great testament of faith and humanity...Tony Judt's dying words in The Memory Chalet makes the connection between memory and society.

Fintan Oâ??Toole, Observer, Books of the Year

The brilliant historian Tony Judt's posthumously published biographical essays, The Memory Chalet show what a learned, witty, subtle, and above all, civilised man we have lost.

Evening Standard, Books of the Year

A tremendously moving memorial to a first-class historian and essayist, moving from the streets of London in the threadbare Clement Attlee years to the dining rooms of New York in the 21st century. If nothing else, Judt led a compellingly colour life...Some of the most affecting passages in this book look back to Judt's childhood, long before his academic fame and fortune. He writes beautifully about the moral and physical atmosphere of his London boyhood...This book is quintessential Judt: humane, fearless, unsparingly honest. In essay after essay the same qualities shine forth, all the more remarkable given the tragic circumstances...That he finished with such a wonderfully moving book is a mark of the man.

Financial Times

Judt calls these charming vignettes "feuillotons" which, without being sentimental, gives them the elegiac quality of falling autumn leaves

James Urquhart, Financial Times

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback

    9780099555599

    November 1, 2011

    Vintage

    240 pages

    RRP $24.99

    Online retailers

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    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook

    9781446409343

    January 4, 2011

    Cornerstone Digital

    240 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
    • Amazon Kindle
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    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

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