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The Memory Chalet Hardcover – November 11, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The; First Edition edition (November 11, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594202893
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594202896
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #962,712 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2010: In 2008 Tony Judt, the historian and essayist whose book Postwar was quickly recognized as one of the landmark works of our time, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. He was soon almost fully paralyzed, but before his death in the summer of 2010 he managed to produce not only two works of political and intellectual history, Ill Fares the Land and the upcoming Thinking the Twentieth Century, but also a series of short essays that had a breathtaking reception when they appeared, a few at a time, in the New York Review of Books. The pieces were remarkable both for their content and their method of composition: isolated at night in the prison of his paralysis, Judt would sort through his memories, arranging them, to better remember them, in the "rooms" of a Swiss chalet he recalled from an idyllic childhood visit, before dictating them in the morning to be published. The essays are at times political but always personal, calling up memories of food, youth, sex, education, train travel, and other subjects with a clarity and intensity born of both his historian's skills of observation and judgment and the heightened awareness of time's passage imposed by his undeniable mortality. Collected now in The Memory Chalet, these reflections make up a memoir that evokes, with clear-eyed passion, the life of the mind, as well as the body. --Tom Nissley

From Bookmarks Magazine

“Loss is loss,” Judt writes, “and nothing is gained by calling it a nicer name.” Many of these chronological essays written while Judt struggled with ALS first appeared in the New York Review of Books, but taken together, they offer an astute portrait of a life cut short—but one also fully, richly lived. Judt writes with the same incisive intellectual clarity and polished writing of his other books, here evoking specific experiences formative to his childhood and intellectual growth. Yet, as critics point out, The Memory Chalet is no typical memoir. Instead, it goes well beyond personal, self-driven recollections to ruminate on the larger importance of Judt’s experiences. In the end, “perhaps The Memory Chalet isn’t an uplifting work,” concludes the Denver Post. “It is better than that: It is a sustaining one.”

More About the Author

Tony Judt was born in London in 1948. He was educated at King's College, Cambridge and the École Normale Supérieure, Paris, and has taught at Cambridge, Oxford, Berkeley and New York University, where he is currently the Erich Maria Remarque Professor of European Studies and Director of the Remarque Institute, which is dedicated to the study of Europe and which he founded in 1995. The author or editor of twelve books, he is 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 in Europe and the US. Professor Judt is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and a Permanent Fellow of the Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (Vienna). He is the author of "Reappraisals: Reflections On The Forgotten Twentieth Century"" and Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945," which was one of the New York Times Book Review's Ten Best Books of 2005, the winner of the Council on Foreign Relations Arthur Ross Book Award, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Customer Reviews

When I had got to the last page, I started reading again from the beginning.
pedal roy
"The thin veneer of civilization rests upon what may well be an illusory faith in our common humanity."
S. McGee
The essays in "Memory Chalet" are personal but still have a scope that gives historical insight.
Hugh Sansom

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

126 of 130 people found the following review helpful By S. McGee TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is the kind of book that I delight in discovering -- one that exceeds all my expectations, that makes in a pleasure to slow down and digest the author's skill with words and his deeply personal and ruthlessly honest ruminations on his own past and the events he lived through, as well as the world he inhabits. The fact that when Tony Judt composed this memoir-like collection of essays (or "feuilletons", as he describes them) he was dying of ALS simply adds an element of poignancy. But the deceptively simple essays are a way of exploring important issues: important to him and important to the rest of us as human beings trying to find ways to coexist with each other and confront our own mortality in less dramatic ways than Judt was forced to do by his disease.

Judt delicately backs into his subjects. Rather than writing about class relationships, he chooses to write about the institution of "bedders" (at Cambridge) or "scouts" (at Oxford), and his relationship with them and that of later generations of students with them; the ways in which those students prided themselves on being classless and yet by doing so, ended up violating something intangible that those college servants valued far more than social mobility -- being respected for who and what they were. He writes about his father and the latter's relationship with Citroen cars and it serves to explain his father's personality and his parents' dysfunctional relationship (I empathized, as the cracks in my own parents' marriage surfaced earliest and most often in long car trips) but also ends up as a commentary on the role of the car in our society. "The car, at the height of its hegemony, stood for individualism, liberty, privacy, separation and selfishness in their most socially dysfunctional forms...
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57 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Richard on November 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a wonderfully written, beautiful, poignant book, all the more poignant because of the author's recent death in August, 2010 from ALS. Judt's POSTWAR was one of the best books I've ever read about that period. His vast knowledge, his ability to write about complex issues and events in clear concise language, and his rare ability to make the material interesting and entertaining will be sorely missed. Above all, I will miss the common sense, the decency, and humanity that comes through in this, his last book. Rest in peace. Read this book, you'll be glad you did.
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Format: Hardcover
In 2008 historian Tony Judt was diagnosed with ALS. Two years later he was dead at age 62. In the interval that marked the course of his dreadful disease, Judt discovered, as he struggled wakeful through the long hours of darkness, that he was "writing whole stories in my head in the course of the night," fashioning them out of fragments of memory he stored in compartments that matched the rooms of a Swiss chalet he had visited as a 10-year-old. The product is this volume of more than two dozen penetrating essays (most of them previously published in the New York Review of Books) --- insightful, reflective, caustic, humorous --- that range over the course of a vital, productive, if too brief, life.

The opening section of THE MEMORY CHALET captures Judt's reminiscences of his life growing up in London after World War II, skillfully evoking that period while at the same time moving effortlessly from personal recollection to commentary on broader social and cultural issues. In "Austerity," he recalls the "characteristic shortages and grayness of postwar Britain" but recognizes that "austerity was not just an economic condition: it aspired to a public ethic," contrasting that with contemporary life in which we have "substituted endless commerce for public purpose, and expect no higher aspirations from our leaders." In a more lighthearted vein is "Food," Judt's paean to the pleasures of Jewish and Indian cuisine, a stark contrast to standard English fare ("Just because you grow up on bad food, it does not follow that you lack nostalgia for it.").
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Evelyn Felice on December 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a lover of the English language and relish having the opportunity of reading a book by someone who has a complete mastery of the language with all its subtleties and nuances. This book is just that! While the story subjects themselves makes very good reading, it is the style of language used and the lyricism given to the written word that makes this book one of a kind.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Hugh Sansom on November 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Tony Judt had a gift for expansive, insightful and accessible writing -- the kind of outstanding writing that most academics hate (because they think that dry, obscure, opaque prose is "true"). Judt belongs in the same camp as John Kenneth Galbraith and Edward Said (and others I'm forgetting at the moment).

The essays in "Memory Chalet" are personal but still have a scope that gives historical insight.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Tony Judt, a British born and educated historian, died in August, 2010, at the age of 62 of ALS. In his final months, he wrote - with the aid of transcribers - a series of essays about his life. Not strictly an autobiography - or even a memoir - the essays provide a touchstone of sorts into the mind of this brilliant man.

The book begins and ends with Switzerland. The holidays in Judt's early years often were taken in the Swiss resort of Chesieres, in the Villers area. He returns to the area - in his mind, at least, because his body can't take the trip - and remembers a chalet his family once stayed in. That chalet - and the memories to brings back to Judt - has remained a "constant" in his life. He compares his life in the current state - completely paralysed - to that chalet in Villers. In between, the essays cover other parts of his life, including his family and education in London and his life since his education at Cambridge. He taught in Paris and spent most of his life, since graduate school, living and teaching in the US. He was a professor at NYU and the author of several noted histories at the time of his death.

Judt died with his mind active in a body that deserted him. How trapped he must have felt. The essays in his book do not give the idea of a life shrinking into itself as much as it does how a shrinking mind expands to look at the world around him. He writes about his secular Jewish family and his youthful Zionism. Even though he continued the family tradition of living in a secular world he maintains enough of a Jewish identity to tell the reader - in one of the final essays - just where his name "Tony" came from. The other essays range from profound and serious to profound and humorous. Just like life, I guess.

"The Memory Chalet" is a group of marvelous, moving essays which come together to give a remarkable man - trapped in terrible circumstances - a way to understand his life. A very moving book.
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