Tony Judt, 1948–2010

Tony-judt_jpg_230x840_q85Timothy Garton Ash in the NYRB blog:

The poet Paul Celan said of his native Czernowitz that it was a place where people and books used to live. Tony Judt was a man for whom books lived, as well as people. His mind, like his apartment on Washington Square, was full of books—and they walked with him, arguing, to the very end.

Critical though he was of French intellectuals, he shared with them a conviction that ideas matter. Being English, he thought facts matter too. As a historian, one of his most distinctive achievements was to integrate the intellectual and political history of twentieth-century Europe—revealing the multiple, sometimes unintended interactions over time of ideas and realities, thoughts and deeds, books and people.

In Postwar, a history of postwar Europe conceived as the continent’s cold war division was crumbling, he performed another great integration. While the two halves of the divided continent were being sewn together politically and economically, in the years after 1989, he brought together their histories. His 1968, for example, was not only Paris, and not only Prague, but rather the whole complex of their simultaneities, contradictions, and malentendus. His was the first major history of contemporary Europe to analyze the stories of Eastern and Western Europe in equally rigorous, nuanced detail, but also as part of a single, larger whole.