September 14th, 2010


An Englishman in New York

Book Review: Reappraisals - Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century, by Tony Judt
Impressed by Judt's Postwar a few years ago, I decided to try out another of his books. This wasn't entirely what I expected, being essentially a collection of review essays, many from the New York Review of Books, but it turned out to be worth reading. Judt's introduction clarifies the arcs of the book: the position and influence of intellectuals in the twentieth century, and of how we deal with modern history. So for me, there's quite a bit of unfamiliar but not uninteresting material, especially in the early chapters. Judt wasn't afraid to voice his opinions, and it shows particularly in essays on Edward Saïd, the Israeli-Palestinian question, and the American view on it. A 2001 essay on Tony Blair likewise shows his distaste, on which Judt was probably ahead of the curve. The essay on "Why Belgium Matters" was also interesting in the light of my recent holiday. Although in one or two cases the essays have put me off the works Judt was discussing, there are also some cases where it has sparked my further interest.