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Judt, a European-born New Yorker and academic, analyzes the failings of his fellow leftists in clear-eyed essays. There are 24 essays, most of which appeared as extended reviews in The New York Review of Books.
He blames the left for their unwillingness to acknowledge that the only examples of communist governments have all taken the form of dictatorships. He cites leftist intellectual willingness to make exceptions for The Greater Good and blindness to Stalin--even when presented with proof--and he blames his fellow leftist intellectuals for an unwillingness to consider that yes, there were communists in the US State Department, and that while McCarthy was wrong about everything else, he may have been right about this.
Judt was on a kibbutz during the Six Day War, when Jordan, Syria and Egypt moved to crush Israel. Israel won not by a shofar, but when the Egyptian air force was burned into the desert. He acknowledges the cost of Zionism--Israeli land gained is Arab land lost is peace lost--and he knows the answer is Land For Peace. In an essay on Edward Said, he talks about Palestinian weakness and ineptitude in face of Israeli duplicity, and later, the inevitable charges of anti-Semitism that follow criticism of the settlements, and the inability of American Jews to see Israel through the eyes of the rest of the world, and the Israeli's inability to create a country that can stand without America's help.
Judt is not perfect. There is some score-settling among fellow leftists that comes across as Paris cafe bickering.
In his review of William Bundy's "Tangled Web" he excoriates Nixon and Kissinger's destructive narcissistic personal foreign policy--cutting out State and CIA--lauds Shuttle Diplomacy, but doesn't see that they have the same roots. The opening to China is seen as brilliant in of itself, but Bundy (and Judt) take at face value the Soviet/Russian claim that the overtures to China had nothing to do with the Soviet summit and SALT treaty.
Finally, his review of "The Cold War: A New History" (2005) by John Lewis Gaddis (who won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Biography), is worth the price of the book. Gaddis's book is eviscerated as shallow and narrow, a jingoistic account of a victory that is an insight to American policymakers that made me wonder if the publisher wasn't FOX News Books. But Judt's view is European, and Gaddis's is American, and we return to the blind spot of the Left: nuclear war. Under the threat of mutually assured destruction, the Right races to the expedient self-serving simple choice, and everyone suffers.
Judt ends with the spectre haunting the West — the spectre of nationalism.
The performance is excellent. Judt's forté is France, so there is more than the usual mot juste. While it is normally just an affectation, like a pipe, pipe cleaner, tobacco, tobacco pouch, tamper and the outsized search for The Ashtray so we can Ring It Like A Schoolbell, in an audio book it transcends affectation to annoyance.
8 of 9 people found this review helpful
What did you love best about Reappraisals?
Brilliant analyses, mordant excoriations of the militarists self-justifying their Vietnam war, great critique of Israel
How could the performance have been better?
It's the wrong reader - the plummy British accent makes Judt sound like like a Mandarin, pronouncing disdainfully on mere mortals.His mispronounciation of all the Hebrew names compounds the tone of an authority impossible remote from his subjects.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Tony Judt was one of the few contemporary thinkers who managed to combine rigorous scholarship with brilliant prose,resulting in cogent exposition of complex issues and theories. These essays, originally published in The New York Review of Books and other similar publications, furnish ample intellectually stimulation and the occasional chuckle, as Judt can have a wicked sense of humor. His dissection of Blair's Britain is brilliantly disheartening and as are the denunciation of Louis Althusser's theories as convoluted gibberish. Primo Levi and Hannah Arendt are lovingly revisited as are intellectuals such Leszek Kolakowski , Eric Hobsbawm and Arthur Koestler. Judt manages to transform even the intricacies of Belgian politics into a fascinating subject.
While I can but praise the text, I have some major problems with the reading of it. James Adams is an adequate reader, but he has major problems with any pronunciation rather than English, and the book is absolutely full of French, Italian , Polish , etc. I found myself heavily cringing at the almost incomprehensible mispronunciations of some non-English words scattered around the text. I would have thought one who accepts the job of reading such a text should do the basic homework of finding out how the names of important writers and intellectuals are pronounced.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
This set of reprinted reviews and essays confirms Tony Judt's position as one of the great post-war historical and political commentators. His knowledge and assessment of the figures and movements of world, and in particular European politics is masterful. I have enjoyed his larger works, and now, following his tragic early demise have turned to the lesser components of his oeuvre.
Which brings me to the rather odd pronunciation of his narrator. James Adams has a curious habit of investing French loanwords, such as oeuvre with idiosyncratic pronunciations. Thus oeuvre becomes ouvre, and insouciant ahnsoowisornt. If anything he rather overdoes his attempts to capture French vowels, which. given his otherwise impeccable received pronunciation, puts one in mind of a Surrey High Street bank manager trying, and failing, to pass for a French native. I realise that this is a rather trivial criticism of an otherwise excellent talking book, and that there will be many who find this only mildly irritating, if at all. It would be no criticism at all were it not for Tony Judt's fondness for French loanwords, but I found it a bit of a distraction.
I'm a bit of a pedant, me.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
What did you like most about Reappraisals?
judt gives a personal reflection from the point of view of a jewish historian who focus has been the years after WW2. His insights are timely. His thoughts on the divergence of european and american philosophical approaches to policy in the closing section is particularly interesting. The performance is well done with a english accented reader,
What does James Adams bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?
If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?
not a film, but a documentary of his life and heroes, and why they were his heroes.