Jennifer Homans om Tony Judt

The only way for me to write this introduction is to separate the man from the ideas. Otherwise, I get pulled back into the man, who I loved and was married to from 1993 until his death in 2010, rather than forward into the ideas. As you read these essays, I hope that you, too, will focus on the ideas, because they are good ideas, and they were written in good faith. “In good faith” may have been Tony’s favorite phrase and highest standard, and he held himself to it in everything he wrote. What he meant by it, I think, was writing that is free of calculation and maneuver, intellectual or otherwise. A clean, clear, honest account.

This is a book about our age. The arc is down: from the heights of hope and possibility, with the revolutions of 1989, into the confusion, devastation, and loss of 9/11, the Iraq war, the deepening crisis in the Middle East, and—as Tony saw it—the self-defeating decline of the American republic. As the facts changed and events unfolded, Tony found himself turned increasingly and unhappily against the current, fighting with all of his intellectual might to turn the ship of ideas, however slightly, in a different direction. The story ends abruptly, with his untimely death.

This book is also, for me, a very personal book, since “our age” was also “my age” with Tony: the early essays date to the first years of our marriage and the birth of our son Daniel, and follow through our time together in Vienna, Paris, New York, the birth of Nicholas, and the growing up of our family. Our life together began, not coincidentally, with the fall of Communism in 1989: I was a graduate student at New York University, where Tony taught. In the summer of 1991, I traveled across Central Europe, and when I got back I wanted to know more. I was advised to take an independent study with Tony Judt.

I did, and our romance began, over books and conversations about European politics, war, revolution, justice, art. It wasn’t the usual dating arrangement: our second “course meeting” took place in a restaurant over dinner. Tony pushed the books aside, ordered wine, and told me of his time in Prague under Communism, and then in 1989, walking through silent snow-covered squares and streets deep into the night soon after the Velvet Revolution, clearly in awe at the turn of historical fate—and the feelings that were already apparent between us.

Referens: Homans, Jennifer. 2015. ”Introduction” i When the Facts Change, Penguin Press.