"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. To fall prey to a motor neuron disease is surely to have offended the Gods at some point, and there is nothing more to be said. But if you must suffer thus, better to have a well-stocked head..." -Tony Judt The Memory Chalet is a memoir unlike any you have ever read before. Each essay 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 divergent sex politics of Europe, before concluding that his generation 'was a revolutionary generation, but missed the revolution'. A series of roadtrips across America lead not just to an appreciation of American history, but to an eventual acquisition of citizenship. Foods and trains and long-lost smells all compete for Judt's attention; but for us, he has forged his reflections into an elegant arc of analysis. All as simply and beautifully arranged as a Swiss chalet - a reassuring refuge deep in the mountains of memory.
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2010: In 2008 Tony Judt, the historian and essayist whose book Postwar was quickly recognized as one of the landmark works of our time, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. He was soon almost fully paralyzed, but before his death in the summer of 2010 he managed to produce not only two works of political and intellectual history, Ill Fares the Land and the upcoming Thinking the Twentieth Century, but also a series of short essays that had a breathtaking reception when they appeared, a few at a time, in the New York Review of Books. The pieces were remarkable both for their content and their method of composition: isolated at night in the prison of his paralysis, Judt would sort through his memories, arranging them, to better remember them, in the "rooms" of a Swiss chalet he recalled from an idyllic childhood visit, before dictating them in the morning to be published. The essays are at times political but always personal, calling up memories of food, youth, sex, education, train travel, and other subjects with a clarity and intensity born of both his historian's skills of observation and judgment and the heightened awareness of time's passage imposed by his undeniable mortality. Collected now in The Memory Chalet, these reflections make up a memoir that evokes, with clear-eyed passion, the life of the mind, as well as the body. --Tom Nissley
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.
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