Reappraisals

This is an outstanding collection of essays on the forgotten 20th century, says Roger Moorhouse

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Reviewed by: Roger Moorhouse
Author: Tony Judt
Publisher: Vintage
Price (RRP): £11.99

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Reappraisals is a collection of Tony Judt’s essays, most of which originally appeared in the New York Review of Books. In providing an overarching theme to the book, Judt claims that we are currently in what he calls an “age of forgetting”; a permanent present in which the recent past is either twisted to suit narrow interest groups or neglected as irrelevant. Furthermore, we have lost touch both with our public intellectuals and with the ideas and ideals which moved them.

This book, therefore, attempts to demonstrate, once more, not only the importance of understanding the 20th century if we are to make sense of our own times, but also the role of intellectuals in gaining that understanding. To this end, Judt’s essays tackle a number of themes, such as Israel’s failings and the curious vacuity of Blair’s Britain, and analyse a host of literary and political colossi – from Pope John Paul II to Eric Hobsbawm.

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Occasionally barbed, Judt is forthright in his opinions, but his prodigious learning and clarity of thought rarely fail to convince. This is a book that should be read by anyone wishing to understand the modern world.