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 trap his extraordinary mind in a declining and immobile body. At night, sleepless in his motionless state, he revisited the past in an effort to keep himself sane, and his dictated essays form a memoir unlike any you have read before.
Each one charts some experience or remembrance of the past through the sieve of Tony Judt's prodigious mind. His youthful love of a particular London bus route evolves into a reflection on public civility and interwar urban planning. Memories of the 1968 student riots of Paris meander through the sexual politics of Europe, a series of roadtrips across America lead not just to an appreciation of American history, but to an eventual acquisition of citizenship.
And everything is as simply and beautifully arranged as a Swiss chalet - a reassuring refuge deep in the mountains of memory.
Tony Judt was educated at King's College, Cambridge and the Ecole Normale Superieure, Paris, and taught at Cambridge, Oxford, and Berkeley. He was the Erich Maria Remarque Professor of European Studies at New York University; in addition to Director of the Remarque Institute, which is dedicated to the study of Europe and which he founded in 1995. The author or editor of fourteen books, Professor Judt was a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, the New Republic, the New York Times and many other journals in Europe and the US. Professor Judt is the author of Ill Fares the Land, Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century, and Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, which was one of the New York Times Book Review's Ten Best Books of 2005, the winner of the Council on Foreign Relations Arthur Ross Book Award, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He died in August, 2010 at the age of sixty-two.