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Tony Judt

When the Facts Change

Tony Judt When The Facts Change Essays 1995 2010
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Biographical note:

Tony Judt was educated at King’s College, Cambridge, and l’École Normale Supérieure, Paris, and taught at Cambridge, Oxford, and Berkeley. He was the Erich Maria Remarque Professor of European Studies at New York University and the director of the Remarque Institute, which he founded in 1995. 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 other journals. Judt is the author of The Memory Chalet, Ill Fares the Land, Reappraisals, and Postwar, which was one of The New York Times Book Review’s Ten Best Books of 2005 and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He died in August 2010 at the age of sixty-two.

Main description:

A great thinker’s final testament: a characteristically wise and forthright collection of essays spanning a career of extraordinary intellectual engagement

Tony Judt’s first collection of essays, Reappraisals, was centered on twentieth-century Europe in history and memory. Some of Judt’s most prominent and indeed controversial essays felt outside of the scope of Reappraisals, most notably his writings on the state of Israel and its relationship to Palestine. There would be time, it was thought, to fit these essays into a larger frame. Sadly, this would not be the case, at least during the author’s own life.

Now, in When the Facts Change, Tony Judt’s widow and fellow historian, Jennifer Homans, has found the frame, gathering together important essays from the span of Judt’s career that chronicle both the evolution of his thought and the remarkable consistency of his passionate engagement and intellectual élan. Whether the subject is the scholarly poverty of the new social history, the willful blindness of French collective memory about what happened to the country’s Jews during World War II, or the moral challenge to Israel of the so-called Palestinian problem, the majesty of Tony Judt’s work lies in his combination of unsparing honesty, intellectual brilliance, and ethical clarity. When the Facts Change exemplifies the utility, indeed the necessity, of minding our history and not letting cheerful fictions suffice in its place. An emphatic demonstration of the power of a great historian to connect us more deeply to the world as it was, as it is, and as it should be, it is a fitting capstone to an extraordinary body of work.


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