From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Historian and political commentator Judt warns against the temptation to look back upon the twentieth century as an age of political extremes, of tragic mistakes and wrongheaded choices; an age of delusion from which we have now, thankfully, emerged. In this collection of 24 previously printed essays (nearly all from the New York Review of Books
and the New Republic
), Judt, whose recent book Postwar
was a Pulitzer finalist, pleads with readers to remember that the past never completely disappears and that the coming century is as fraught with dangers as the last. Buttressing his argument, Judt draws upon an impressively broad array of subjects. He begins by describing the eclipse of intellectuals as a public force (for instance, the steep decline in Arthur Koestler's reputation) before reminding his audience of the immense power of ideas by discussing the now inexplicable attractions of Marxism in the 20th century. In the book's penultimate section, Judt examines the rise of the state in the politics and economics of Western nations before finally tackling the United States, its foreign policy and the fate of liberalism. As a fascinating exploration of the world we have recently lost—for good or bad, or both—this collection, despite its lack of new content, cannot be bested. (Apr. 21)
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A collection of book reviews with a sprinkling of essays, this volume collects the praises and pans of historian Judt (Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945, 2005). Reprised largely from the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books and including lengthy treatments addressed to a highbrow audience, they cover works and biographies related to twentieth-century history that were published in the past decade. A dozen and a half in all, they encompass the spate of titles about Communists (historian Eric Hobsbawm), ex-Communists (Arthur Koestler and Whittaker Chambers), and the cold war. A decidedly declarative writer, Judt advances his views like an experienced intellectual fencer, although his palpable sense of proprietorship over the subjects tends to reduce the author in question to a launching platform for Judt’s opinions. These include negative perspectives on Tony Blair, U.S. foreign policy, and Israel. Whether lauding or loathing, Judt proves provocative. --Gilbert Taylor