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Tony Judt: an appreciation

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New York University

(Read caption) Tony Judt, born in London in 1948, became a frequent and eloquent commentator on postwar European society.

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Tony Judt – historian, author, academic – was educated in Europe but built his career here in the United States, where he founded and headed New York University's Remarque Institute. Perhaps it was his insider's knowledge of various Western cultures that allowed him to speak to all of us so clearly.

"I think intellectuals have a primary duty to dissent not from the conventional wisdom of the age (though that too) but, and above all, from the consensus of their own community," he told an interviewer recently, and certainly Judt never shied away from doing so.

As Lynn Parramore notes in her tribute on The Huffington Post, Judt "pondered American culture and politics with the critical eye of an uncle whose affection was tempered by exasperation but buoyed by an undaunted belief in us. He understood what ails us – our materialism, our selfishness, our delusions of perpetual growth and free-wheeling markets – but he also gleaned our potential to regain our footing if we could but imagine alternatives."

Judt will long be remembered for his books (including his master work "Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945"), his many writings for The New York Review of Books, and the robust nature of his contribution to public discussion of both history and contemporary society.

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