Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Tony Judt

Yesterday a friend and colleague sent me a link to Tony Judt's latest piece in the New York Times, a short and sparkling essay on global cities and why he loved New York, from his latest book, The Memory Chalet. The books and articles continue to appear regularly all these months after his death. He must be much better known to a wider general readership and beyond the US, where he lived, than he ever was, thanks to the enormous outpouring of writing on subjects from the broadest to the most personal in that final year when he was paralysed by ALS (or Motor Neurone Disease, as we'd call it in the UK, where common speech tends not to distinguish between the different kinds of this cruel disease).

I first read him when another blogger friend highlighted his NYRB piece describing the long, immobile nights of his last months, when shocking generosity dictated he should let his carer sleep unless he was choking to death, not just alone in anguish. I couldn't stop thinking about it. Such an honest, painful, terrifying account, made bearable, indeed beautiful, by the strength and skill of the writing.

What an extraordinary thing he did and legacy he's left. He makes me proud that he was British by birth (and I don't often succomb to nationalist sentiments). Even though his fate was so terrible, he buoys me up on a morning when I listened - stupidly - to half an hour of radio news of torture, corruption, fear, poverty and spite. Why do we hear so much about cruelty and ineptitude and so little of heros? I'm glad I heard, and continue to hear, from this one.

Update: I see that the friend who sent me that latest essay blogged about him yesterday too! The admiration fills you up, I think, so you have to express it.

1 comment:

litlove said...

I met him once when he came to Cambridge - he is a great loss. His writing and thinking were exemplary.