In less than a generation, the headlong advance of globalization has altered structures of thought that had been essentially unchanged since the European industrial revolution. As a result, we have lost touch with a century of social thought and socially motivated activism. In the 24 essays in Reappraisals, Judt resurrects the key aspects of the world we have lost to remind us how important they still are to us now and to our future.
©2008 Tony Judt; (P)2008 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"As a fascinating exploration of the world we have recently lost - for good or bad, or both - this collection...cannot be bested." (Publishers Weekly)
Judt, a European-born New Yorker and academic, analyzes the failings of his fellow leftists in clear-eyed essays. There are 24 essays, most of which appeared as extended reviews in The New York Review of Books.
He blames the left for their unwillingness to acknowledge that the only examples of communist governments have all taken the form of dictatorships. He cites leftist intellectual willingness to make exceptions for The Greater Good and blindness to Stalin--even when presented with proof--and he blames his fellow leftist intellectuals for an unwillingness to consider that yes, there were communists in the US State Department, and that while McCarthy was wrong about everything else, he may have been right about this.
Judt was on a kibbutz during the Six Day War, when Jordan, Syria and Egypt moved to crush Israel. Israel won not by a shofar, but when the Egyptian air force was burned into the desert. He acknowledges the cost of Zionism--Israeli land gained is Arab land lost is peace lost--and he knows the answer is Land For Peace. In an essay on Edward Said, he talks about Palestinian weakness and ineptitude in face of Israeli duplicity, and later, the inevitable charges of anti-Semitism that follow criticism of the settlements, and the inability of American Jews to see Israel through the eyes of the rest of the world, and the Israeli's inability to create a country that can stand without America's help.
Judt is not perfect. There is some score-settling among fellow leftists that comes across as Paris cafe bickering.
In his review of William Bundy's "Tangled Web" he excoriates Nixon and Kissinger's destructive narcissistic personal foreign policy--cutting out State and CIA--lauds Shuttle Diplomacy, but doesn't see that they have the same roots. The opening to China is seen as brilliant in of itself, but Bundy (and Judt) take at face value the Soviet/Russian claim that the overtures to China had nothing to do with the Soviet summit and SALT treaty.
Finally, his review of "The Cold War: A New History" (2005) by John Lewis Gaddis (who won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Biography), is worth the price of the book. Gaddis's book is eviscerated as shallow and narrow, a jingoistic account of a victory that is an insight to American policymakers that made me wonder if the publisher wasn't FOX News Books. But Judt's view is European, and Gaddis's is American, and we return to the blind spot of the Left: nuclear war. Under the threat of mutually assured destruction, the Right races to the expedient self-serving simple choice, and everyone suffers.
Judt ends with the spectre haunting the West — the spectre of nationalism.
The performance is excellent. Judt's forté is France, so there is more than the usual mot juste. While it is normally just an affectation, like a pipe, pipe cleaner, tobacco, tobacco pouch, tamper and the outsized search for The Ashtray so we can Ring It Like A Schoolbell, in an audio book it transcends affectation to annoyance.
I wasn't familiar with Judt before reading this book, and I had only a passing knowledge of many of the featured people.
The essays seem somewhat Judeo-centric, but they are fascinating and they have introduced me to people and philosophies I'll enjoy pursuing.
The essays on the more recent time periods (newer than 2003) seemed hollow, considering the economic and political changes of the past 18 months. I enjoyed all the others.
Tony Judt is revealed to be one of the most thoughtful, incisive writers on the history and politics of the last 100 years. Let us have more of Tony.
"Excellent essays, flawed narration"
Tony Judt was one of the few contemporary thinkers who managed to combine rigorous scholarship with brilliant prose,resulting in cogent exposition of complex issues and theories. These essays, originally published in The New York Review of Books and other similar publications, furnish ample intellectually stimulation and the occasional chuckle, as Judt can have a wicked sense of humor. His dissection of Blair's Britain is brilliantly disheartening and as are the denunciation of Louis Althusser's theories as convoluted gibberish. Primo Levi and Hannah Arendt are lovingly revisited as are intellectuals such Leszek Kolakowski , Eric Hobsbawm and Arthur Koestler. Judt manages to transform even the intricacies of Belgian politics into a fascinating subject.
While I can but praise the text, I have some major problems with the reading of it. James Adams is an adequate reader, but he has major problems with any pronunciation rather than English, and the book is absolutely full of French, Italian , Polish , etc. I found myself heavily cringing at the almost incomprehensible mispronunciations of some non-English words scattered around the text. I would have thought one who accepts the job of reading such a text should do the basic homework of finding out how the names of important writers and intellectuals are pronounced.
These cogent, closely argued essays published in a variety of periodicals over many years provide a valuable interpretation of many aspects of recent history.Tony Judt writes excellently with both passion and intelligence, and always has a well considered approach to each subject and is not the least afraid of reaching controversial conclusions. Many readers might disagree with his views on Israel, America and many other topics, but what he says always deserve serious consideration. Perhaps the most approachable essays are those on such figures as Primo Levi, Albert Camus and and Eric Hobsbawm, but even more obscure topics -communism in Romania, Althusser, political problems of Belgium -are made interesting James Adams reads the text in an alert and straightforward manner which is what is required. This is hardly a book to which one might listen for relaxation, but taken one essay at a time it provides much intellectual stimulation and food for thought . Strongly recommended.
"Brilliant essays, rather odd delivery"
This set of reprinted reviews and essays confirms Tony Judt's position as one of the great post-war historical and political commentators. His knowledge and assessment of the figures and movements of world, and in particular European politics is masterful. I have enjoyed his larger works, and now, following his tragic early demise have turned to the lesser components of his oeuvre.
Which brings me to the rather odd pronunciation of his narrator. James Adams has a curious habit of investing French loanwords, such as oeuvre with idiosyncratic pronunciations. Thus oeuvre becomes ouvre, and insouciant ahnsoowisornt. If anything he rather overdoes his attempts to capture French vowels, which. given his otherwise impeccable received pronunciation, puts one in mind of a Surrey High Street bank manager trying, and failing, to pass for a French native. I realise that this is a rather trivial criticism of an otherwise excellent talking book, and that there will be many who find this only mildly irritating, if at all. It would be no criticism at all were it not for Tony Judt's fondness for French loanwords, but I found it a bit of a distraction.
I'm a bit of a pedant, me.
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