U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Tony Judt, 1948-2010

Tony Judt has apparently passed away following a two-year battle with ALS. No obituaries seem to be online yet. I’ll update this post with links to them and some thoughts of my own later in the day.

UPDATE I: While the official New York Times obituary has yet to be posted, this short appreciation by William Grimes has appeared on the NYT’s website. See also this piece on Judt’s working with ALS that appeared in this morning’s Irish Independent before news of Judt’s death had been announced.

: The NYT has now posted a complete obituary, also by Grimes. The Guardian (UK) also has an obit up.

A few thoughts of my own: I never had the opportunity to meet Tony Judt, so I can’t offer any personal reminiscences; my knowledge of him is entirely through his historical scholarship and his career as a public intellectual. When I read a piece by Judt, I could always count on its intelligence, its wit, and its independence from the orthodoxies that plague those of us who think about the past or try to comment on the present. To say that he was brilliant and independent is not at all to say that he was always right or that I always agreed with him. But he was always worth reading. In my opinion he was the model of a public intellectual. The historical profession has lost one of its most distinguished members and our public discourse has lost one of its most valuable and distinctive voices.

6 Thoughts on this Post

  1. Perhaps a retrospective panel on Judt’s importance to American intellectual life might be in order for our fall conference? And if not this fall, then maybe at our 2011 event? – TL

  2. I think that’s an excellent idea, Tim. Judt was very much a New York intellectual (if not a New York Intellectual), so such a panel would make more sense at CUNY than elsewhere, IMO.

  3. “Postwar” is a great book, proof that history in the old grand manner remains not only necessary, but more important, possible.

  4. I have read Judt completely through his New York Review of Books articles, which were consistently excellent — sharply argued, enormously informative, and compelling in historical perspective. I have been catching up this summer on the Review and so just reading his series of short memoirs — in fact, just read two this morning and was contemplating his heroic, late efforts at political analysis and autobiography given his illness. The autobiographical pieces, when collected, will be valuable and often read for a variety of reasons, not least as a model for the publicly engaged historian.

  5. During some channel flipping last night I ran across Charlie Rose interviewing Tony Judt. Rose’s last interview with Judt was apparently about 3 weeks before Judt’s death, and that that encounter aired last night.

    The interview was riveting. While encumbered by a ventilator and confined to bed, a very lucid Judt graciously answered Rose’s questions. The interview is not yet up at Rose’s site (http://www.charlierose.com/guest/view/663), but watch it when it goes online. – TL

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