Here is the final book of unparalleled historian Tony Judt. Where Judt’s masterpiece Postwar redefined the history of modern Europe by uniting the stories of its eastern and western halves, Thinking the Twentieth Century unites the century’s conflicted intellectual history into a single soaring narrative. The 20th century comes to life as the age of ideas - a time when, for good or for ill, the thoughts of the few reigned over the lives of the many. Judt presents the triumphs and the failures of public intellectuals, adeptly extracting the essence of their ideas and explaining the risks of their involvement in politics. Spanning the entire era and all currents of thought, this is a triumphant tour de force that restores clarity to the classics of modern thought with the assurance and grace of a master craftsman.
The exceptional nature of this work is evident in its very structure - a series of luminous conversations between Judt and his friend and fellow historian Timothy Snyder, grounded in the texts of their trade and focused by the intensity of their vision. Judt’s astounding eloquence and range of reference are on display as never before. Traversing the century’s complexities with ease, he and Snyder revive both thoughts and thinkers, guiding us through the debates that made our world. As forgotten treasures are unearthed and overrated thinkers are dismantled, the shape of a century emerges. Judt and Snyder make us partners in their project as we learn the ways to think like a historian or even like a public intellectual. We begin to experience the power of historical perspective for the critique and reform of society and for the pursuit of the good from day to day.
In restoring - and exemplifying - the best of the intellectual life of the 20th century, Thinking the Twentieth Century charts a pathway for moral life in the 21st. An incredible achievement, this book is about the life of the mind - and the mindful life.
©2012 the Estate of Tony Judt. Introduction 2012 by Timothy Snyder (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“A lively, browsable, deeply satisfying meditation on recent history by a deservedly celebrated public intellectual.” (Publishers Weekly)
This book is a conversation between Tony Judt and Timothy Snyder, but unfortunately, whoever conceived the format for the audio book has taken no trouble to distinguish who is speaking and when. Sometimes it's clear, but most of the time it's not. Snyder's questions are often highly involved so just because someone is presenting their opinion doesn't mean it's Judt speaking. This book should have had two narrators and at the very least needs to be edited to add cues to signal who is speaking. As it is, the reader's accent is marvelously even and not at all unhelpful in aiding the listener to distinguish who is who.
I had never heard of Tony Judt, but this book was a great introduction to his thinking, presented in an accessible style. Because Judt was dying, the book consists of a series of interviews -- so there is no chance for long footnotes or an overly-academic tone. The interview format can get a little confusing because the reader doesn't use different voices for the Snyder and Judt, so it can be hard to figure out what is question and what is anser. Judt had a strong moral compass and although he was certainly left of center, a lot of this book deals with criticism of the Left for their silence on the atrocities of the USSR. Basically a history of the Left in the 20th century that I'd never been exposed to.
So packed with fascinating ideas I had to keep hitting 30 second rewind. Not easy to tell in audio version what is judt and what is Snyder but doesn't matter - both interesting. Also very timely discussion - even suggests rise of Trump-like figure in America in last chapter.
Cosham has an excellent voice, but the content of this book is nearly unintelligible in this format. It matters who is speaking, and if the producers had used two narrators, so you could identify whether a quote was coming from Judt or Snyder, this could have been a great audiobook. As it is, Cosham does nothing to distinguish who is speaking, and each man's speech blends into the other's. As audio, it's a mess, which is really unfortunate. Imagine a book that is written in the form of an interview in which neither speaker is identified and the text is all written in exactly the same font, that is what this audiobook is like.
Judt's biography informed his work more than one could know, and this book is an excellent account of that rich interaction between living the postwar period and writing its history.
Making intellectual discourse relevant, gripping and useful. Cosham is superb. It ended ended too soon!
I have been an enormous fan of Tony Judt for a very long time. His brilliant insights into the tumultuous history of the modern world have enlivened many of my days (and nights). He was a brilliant writer who faced death with an incredible amount of courage. What a gift he had, and this book is a worthy addition to his too brief a canon. I was saddened when I read of his death but also relieved that the torment that he faced with such dignity was over. Judt's work here is fine and made more remarkable considering the difficulties he had to endure in the last parts. I know his final work just came out and look forward to adding it to my collection. Brilliant historian whose craftsmanship shows throughout.
Middlemarch, Middlesex, Middlebrow
Judt's thinking is breathtakingly lucid and reveals relationships and causes deep under events where conventional accounts are superficial and unsatisfying. Snyder is also obviously brilliant their voices are so similar that it would have been helpful to have some additional cues as to who is speaking in the audio version--the printed book uses italics. That said, Mr. Cosham, one of my favorite Blackstone readers, clearly appreciates the material and can pronounce the foreign names with remarkable accuracy. He does, however, tend to lose volume on the final consonants of sentences, here as elsewhere.
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