Eyal Press in Public Books:
Ta-Nehisi Coates is best known for his writing about racism in America—in particular, his 2014 essay “The Case for Reparations,” and his 2015 book, Between the World and Me. Ta-Nehisi’s readers know that the toll racism has inflicted on the bodies of Black people, and the enduring power of white supremacy, have long preoccupied him. On this show, however, he’ll be talking about a subject—or rather an influence—that few people associate with his work.
That influence is the late Tony Judt, a British historian. In 2005, Judt published his magnum opus, Postwar, a sweeping, 933-page history of modern Europe.
In this conversation, which was recorded last fall, Ta-Nehisi talks about why Postwar had such a profound impact on him. He explores the preface he wrote to Ill Fares the Land, another of Judt’s books, which has just been reissued by Penguin. He also talks about the power of language to help us imagine a better world, whether he identifies as an Afro-pessimist, and what it’s like to grow up in a nationalist household.