Tuesday, August 24, 2010

From Wikipedia

Tony Judt

Tony Robert Judt FBA (2 January 1948 – 6 August 2010)[1] was a British historian, author and university professor.[2] He specialized in European history and was the Erich Maria Remarque Professor in European Studies at New York University and Director of NYU's Erich Maria Remarque Institute. He was a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books. In 1996 he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 2007 a corresponding Fellow of the British Academy.

Starting as an impassioned left-wing Zionist, he dropped his faith in Marxism early on and became, in his words, "a universalist social democrat".[3] After a period of admiration for the collectivism of Israeli kibbutzim, he would become critical of Israeli policy and its lack of tolerance.[4] He displayed a profound suspicion of left wing ideologies, of identity politics, and of the American role as the world's sole superpower.[1]

In 2008, Judt was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. From October 2009, he was paralyzed from the neck down. He was nevertheless able to give a two-hour public lecture.[45][46] In January 2010 Judt wrote a short article about his condition, the first of a series of memoirs published in the New York Review of Books.[47] In March 2010, Judt was interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air,[48] and in June he was interviewed by the BBC's disability affairs correspondent Peter White for the Radio 4 programme No Triumph, No Tragedy.[49]

Judt died of ALS at his home in Manhattan on 6 August 2010.[50] This was the day before an article about his illness was published in the Irish Independent (before the announcement of his death) indicating that he "won't surrender any time soon" and comparing his suffering to that of author Terry Pratchett, who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease in 2007.[51] Shortly before his death, according to The Guardian, he was said to have possessed the "liveliest mind in New York."[52] He continued his work as a public intellectual right up until his death, writing essays for the New York Review of Books[52] and completing a co-authored synthetic intellectual history under the title Thinking The Twentieth Century.[53]

Following his death TIME said he was "a historian of the very first order, a public intellectual of an old-fashioned kind and — in more ways than one — a very brave man".[54] He was also praised for what he described as the historian's task "to tell what is almost always an uncomfortable story and explain why the discomfort is part of the truth we need to live well and live properly. A well-organised society is one in which we know the truth about ourselves collectively, not one in which we tell pleasant lies about ourselves." Mark LeVine of the University of California at Irvine said "Today Americans and their politicians much prefer pretty lies to hard truths...It would be nice if Judt's arguments and scholarship could help shape the civic language that has so clearly gone missing in the US during the last 30 years. But in the meantime, his writings on European history and the need for a new social contract between rulers and ruled can inspire a new generation of scholars and activists in other cultures...in Latin America, Africa, and the Muslim world, where the legacy of Judt's call for a critically reflective social democratic political discourse might well be found. If American militarism, European myopia, corporate greed and the militant ideologies of numerous stripes do not doom them first."[4]

Over the years Charlie Rose spoke with Tony Judt many times. To see those interviews click here.

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