Tony Judt died Friday. For the last year he was afflicted with the appalling A.L.S. -- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease. His New York Times obituary is here; my reaction to Postwar, his masterful history of Europe since 1945 appears here.
But it wasn't this volume that introduced me to the New York University professor. It was his Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century, a collection of essays that demanded that I look again at what I thought I knew about intellectual and political currents in my own time. It's not easy to shake up how a mature person sees what she lived. But Judt forced me to make quite a number of -- yes -- reappraisals. He reminded me that Central Europe was once that continent's intellectual heart, that actual existing Communism was both a hideous and petty human failure, and, like all responsible thinkers, that telling the truth matters. I didn't always agree with his conclusions, but I have read few contemporaries who I have admired as much.
I mourn Judt's passing.