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May 11 , 2010

When the Facts Change

Essays 1995 - 2010


A great thinker's final testament: a characteristically wise and forthright collection of essays from the author of Postwar and Thinking the Twentieth Century, spanning a career of extraordinary intellectual engagement. Edited and introduced by Jennifer Homans.

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It might be thought the height of poor taste to ascribe good fortune to a healthy man with a young family struck down at the age of sixty by an incurable degenerative disorder from which he must shortly die. But there is more than one sort of luck.In 2008, historian Tony Judt learnt that he was suffering from a disease that would eventually…

Tony Judt’s first collection of essays, Reappraisals, was centred on twentieth-century Europe in history and memory. Some of Judt’s most prominent and indeed controversial essays felt outside of the scope of Reappraisals, most notably his writings on the state of Israel and its relationship to Palestine. There would be time, it was thought, to fit these essays into a larger frame. Sadly, this would not be the case, at least during the author’s own life.

Now, in When the Facts Change, Tony Judt’s widow and fellow historian, Jennifer Homans, has found the frame, gathering together important essays from the span of Judt’s career that chronicle both the evolution of his thought and the remarkable consistency of his passionate engagement and intellectual élan. Whether the subject is the scholarly poverty of the new social history, the willful blindness of French collective memory about what happened to the country’s Jews during World War II, or the moral challenge to Israel of the so-called Palestinian problem, the majesty of Tony Judt’s work lies in his combination of unsparing honesty, intellectual brilliance, and ethical clarity. When the Facts Change exemplifies the utility, indeed the necessity, of minding our history and not letting cheerful fictions suffice in its place. An emphatic demonstration of the power of a great historian to connect us more deeply to the world as it was, as it is, and as it should be, it is a fitting capstone to an extraordinary body of work.

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