Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945

In This Review

Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945

By Tony Judt
Penguin Press, 2005
960 pp. $37.95
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Nobody is more qualified than Judt to combine serious descriptive history with incisive, original political analysis, to cover both western and eastern Europe, and to pass stinging yet informed judgments on the behavior and evasions, the deeds and the failings, of his subjects. He gives a very fine picture of the Stalinized half of the continent; a sympathetic account of the 1960s, which put an end to "a 180-year cycle of ideological politics in Europe"; and a virtuoso account of the policies of the European Community. He calls Gorbachev a victim of "the scale of the contradictions" his attempt at a "controlled revolution" aroused and describes movingly the longing for "returning to Europe" in the Eastern Europe of 1989. Nor does he believe that Washington "brought down" communism: it "imploded of its own accord." In describing a Europe no longer divided by the Iron Curtain, Judt notes the decline of the intellectuals and widespread nostalgia. And yet he sees the emergence of "Europe as a way of life," as a continent where the state remains central. He concludes with a moving piece on the Holocaust, an "essay on modern European memory." This monumental work is a tour de force -- and here "tour de force" must remain in French, despite Judt's remarks on the decline of the French language.

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