Saturday, August 7, 2010

R.I.P. Tony Judt

Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945Tony Judt, author of Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, died today of Lou Gehrig's disease, at age 62. Before Postwar, I'd skipped Judt's essays in The New York Review of Books, thinking him a typical centrist liberal wonk. My mistake. I picked up Postwar while I was working on a chapter of my book The Family, about the role of American fundamentalists in the rehabilitation of Nazis. My interest, then, was limited to a small piece of Judt's book; really, I was simply hoping to find a generalist's account of the Adenauer government. But what I found was a vigorously argued, well-paced, deeply engaged history that picked me up and carried well beyond Germany. I'm usually not a fan of doorstop continental histories, but Judt's book is, in one sense, less than that, and thus more. Judt eschewed the omniscient authority of the all-powerful historian for the greater passion -- and, to me, persuasiveness -- of the essayist. It's a valuable book. And since then, I've read Judt's NYRB essays, including his moving memoir, dictated in his dying days, which begins here.