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Tony Judt's Quotes

Tony Judt profile photo

Born: 1948-01-02
Profession: Historian
Nation: British
Biography of Tony Judt

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American social arrangements, economic arrangements, the degree of inequality in American life, the relatively small role played by the government in American public life and so forth, compares to exactly the opposite conditions in most of the European societies.

Tags: Government, Life, Small

As citizens of a free society, we have a duty to look critically at our world. But if we think we know what is wrong, we must act upon that knowledge.

Tags: Free, Knowledge, Society

For Europe to play a part in the world on the scale of its wealth and its population and its capacities, Europe has to be united in some way, and Europe is not united.

Tags: Europe, United, Wealth

Healthcare reform is a paradigmatic case. It is self-evidently necessary and inevitable and has been on the agenda for 35 years, and the political class seems completely unable to respond to it.

Tags: Necessary, Political, Seems

History can show you that it was one pile of bad stuff after another. It can also show you that there's been tremendous progress in knowledge, behaviour, laws, civilisation. It cannot show you that there was a meaning behind it.

Tags: Bad, History, Knowledge

I believe that if we think back to the period from F.D.R. through, let us say, Bush I, until the end of the Cold War, we lived through an artificial period in which American interests and European interests essentially dovetailed.

Tags: American, End, War

I don't want to be the passively alert vegetable in the corner that takes in everything but can't communicate, which I think would suck a lot of life out of my family without giving very much to me.

Tags: Family, Giving, Life

I just like being on my own on trains, traveling. I spent all my pocket money travelling the London Underground and Southern Railway, what used to be the Western region, and in Europe as much as I could afford it. My parents used to think I was going places, but I wasn't, I was just travelling the trains.

Tags: Money, Parents, Used

I see myself as, first and above all, a teacher of history; next, a writer of European history; next, a commentator on European affairs; next ,a public intellectual voice within the American left; and only then an occasional, opportunistic participant in the pained American discussion of the Jewish matter.

Tags: American, History, Teacher

I started work on my first French history book in 1969; on 'Socialism in Provence' in 1974; and on the essays in Marxism and the French Left in 1978. Conversely, my first non-academic publication, a review in the 'TLS', did not come until the late 1980s, and it was not until 1993 that I published my first piece in the 'New York Review.'

Tags: Book, History, Work

I think Bush was seen as someone who was disentangling America from the connections that it had with the outside world, that it found encumbering for domestic purposes.

Tags: America, Found, Someone

I think if I'm controversial it's not because I set out to be. It's because I've never felt comfortable being part of someone else's mainstream community.

Tags: Community, Else, Someone

I was born accidentally. I lived accidentally in London. We nearly migrated to New Zealand. So much of my life has been a product of chance, I can't see a meaning in it at all.

Tags: Born, Chance, Life

I was born in 1948, so I'm a '60s kid, and in the '60s everyone talked all the time, endlessly, about socialism versus capitalism, about political choices, ideology, Marxism, revolution, 'the system' and so on.

Tags: Political, Revolution, Time

I went to live on a kibbutz, and I'd idealized the world of collective, agrarian work, where everyone was equal, everyone contributed, that all this awful European intellectual stuff just fell away.

Tags: Away, Everyone, Work

I would say that I have become more radical as I have gotten older. I started out very radical when I was young, like most people, but I became less actively politically engaged in the middle of my life.

Tags: Become, Life, Young

I'm regarded outside New York University as a looney tunes leftie, self-hating Jewish communist; inside the university, I'm regarded as a typical, old-fashioned, white male liberal elitist. I like that. I'm on the edge of both; it makes me feel comfortable.

Tags: Both, Liberal, Makes

If we have learned nothing else from the 20th century, we should at least have grasped that the more perfect the answer, the more terrifying its consequences. Incremental improvements upon unsatisfactory circumstances are the best that we can hope for, and probably all we should seek.

Tags: Best, Hope, Perfect

It would be suicide in the American academy to show too early an interest beyond your doctoral specialization: charges of everything from charlatanry to ambition would be levied and tenure denied. I've seen this first-hand.

Tags: Ambition, American, Show

Judaism for me is a sensibility of collective self-questioning and uncomfortable truth-telling. I feel a debt of responsibility to this past. It is why I am Jewish.

Tags: Debt, Past, Why

Nationalist, anti-European, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim public political figures, seem a worrying picture of a possible European future. We could still fall back into pre-Europe... and it worries me.

Tags: Future, Picture, Political

No one wants to live in a wheelchair unable to talk, only winking once for yes and twice for no. It's perfectly reasonable that there will come a point where the balance of judgment of life over death swings the other way.

Tags: Death, Life, Talk

Obviously a primary liberal conviction is that we should be tolerant of other peoples' convictions. But if we believe in something, we had better find ways to say so convincingly.

Tags: Conviction, Liberal, Ways

Popularizing - much less venturing beyond one's secure turf - was frowned upon for many years. I think I probably internalized the prohibition, even though I was - and knew I was - among the best speakers and writers of my age cohort. I don't mean I was the best historian - a quite different measure.

Tags: Age, Best, Mean

Social democrats are characteristically modest - a political quality whose virtues are overestimated. We need to apologise a little less for our shortcomings and speak more assertively of achievements. That these were always incomplete should not trouble us.

Tags: Political, Social, Speak

The people whose necks hurt when I write about the Middle East tend to live in Brooklyn or Boca Raton: the kind of Zionist who pays another man to live in Israel for him. I have nothing but contempt for such people.

Tags: Another, Him, Hurt

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Much more quotes by Tony Judt below the page.

There is nothing to be said for being crippled. You don't see the world better or clearer, nor do you develop some special set of skills by way of compensation.

Tags: Nor, Said, Special

We have responsibilities for others, not just across space but across time. We have responsibilities to people who came before us. They left us a world of institutions, ideas or possibilities for which we, in turn, owe them something. One of the things we owe them is not to squander them.

Tags: Ideas, Others, Time

We need to start talking about inequality again; we need to start talking about the inequities and unfairnesses and the injustices of an excessively divided society, divided by wealth, by opportunity, by outcome, by assets and so forth.

Tags: Again, Society, Start

What has gone catastrophically wrong in England and the States is that for 30 years we've lost the ability to talk about the state in positive terms. We've raised a generation or two of young people who don't think to ask, 'What can the state do that is good?'

Tags: Good, Lost, Positive

What I am against is false optimism: the notion either that things have to go well, or else that they tend to, or else that the default condition of historical trajectories is characteristically beneficial in the long-run.

Tags: Against, Else, Optimism

Why is it that here in the United States we have such difficulty even imagining a different sort of society from the one whose dysfunctions and inequalities trouble us so?

Tags: Here, Society, Why

We need to learn... how war brutalises and degrades winners and losers alike and what happens to us when, having heedlessly waged war for no good reason, we are encouraged to inflate and demonise our enemies in order to justify that war's indefinite continuance.

Tags: Good, War, Winners

Apparently, the line you take on Israel trumps everything else in life.

Tags: Else, Life, Line

At a certain point, to remain slightly tangential to wherever I was became a way of 'being Tony': by not being anything that everyone else was.

Tags: Else, Everyone, Point

But I'm English. We don't do uplifting.

Tags: English, Uplifting

History always happens to us and nothing ever stays the same.

Tags: Happens, History, Stays

How should we begin to make amends for raising a generation obsessed with the pursuit of material wealth and indifferent to so much else?

Tags: Else, Generation, Wealth

I can still boss people around. I can still write. I can still read. I can still eat, and I can still have very strong views.

Tags: Read, Strong, Write

I do think we're on the edge of a terrifying world, and that many young people know that but don't know how to talk about it.

Tags: Edge, Talk, Young

I don't believe in an afterlife. I don't believe in a single or multiple godhead. I respect people who do, but I don't believe it myself.

Tags: Afterlife, Respect, Single

I don't believe that one should have one-size-fits-all moral rules for international political action.

Tags: Action, Moral, Political

I don't much mind being expelled from communities.

Tags: Expelled, Mind

I grew up in a world where the social democratic state was the norm, not the exception.

Tags: Democratic, Social, State

I know exactly how and where I am going to die. The only question is when.

Tags: Die, Exactly, Question

I'm not sure I've learned anything new about life; but I've had to think harder about death and what comes after for other people.

Tags: After, Death, Life

I've lost count of the interviews I've done about my illness and its relationship to my ideas and writing.

Tags: Done, Lost, Writing

It does irritate me when I am described as a controversialist and commentator on Israel.

Tags: Irritate, Israel

My history writing was based on what I saw in strange, exotic places rather than just reading books.

Tags: History, Strange, Writing

Reality is a powerful solvent.

Tags: Powerful, Reality

Social democracy does not represent an ideal future; it does not even represent the ideal past.

Tags: Democracy, Future, Past

The pleasures of mental agility are much overstated, inevitably - as it now appears to me - by those not exclusively dependent upon them.

Tags: Dependent, Mental, Pleasures

We are not merely historians but also and always citizens.

Tags: Citizens, Historians, Merely

When you are in my classroom, you get everything from me. But you bloody well better give everything too.

Tags: Bloody, Classroom, Give

Words can make the illness a subject I can master, and not one that one simply emotes over.

Tags: Illness, Simply, Words

You don't have to be Jewish to understand the history of Europe in the 20th century, but it helps.

Tags: Europe, History, Understand

I buy a lot of books I've found via the Internet, whose existences I'd otherwise never have known about.

Tags: Books, Found, Known

I obviously read and adore traditional fiction. I teach traditional fiction; I also teach all kinds of not-so-traditional fiction.

Tags: Kinds, Read, Teach

I spend far too much time on eBay buying lamps and upholstery remnants.

Tags: Far, Spend, Time

A logic proof is: you get a starting point and an ending point, and you have to get there through all these different steps and tautologies. I approach novel writing that way. When I get to the end I have to go back and connect everything.

Tags: End, Point, Writing

During the summers, when I'm in Maine, I work at a desk that's located beyond all tendrilly wi-fi reaches. It takes me a few days to break the constant e-mail-checking habit, then I find I don't want to check my e-mail ever, and often don't for days.

Tags: Few, Often, Work

I think female-female relationships interest me so much more because they're so encoded. There is kind of a psychic element that happens within groups of women.

Tags: Happens, Within, Women

I won't deny that I have a far more productive writing life without the Internet, mostly because I rekindle my ability to concentrate on one thing for a period of longer than three minutes. My curiosity is channeled inward rather than Internet-ward.

Tags: Life, Rather, Writing

Usually I'll write all the way through to an end, and then I go back and try to fix the ending so that it makes sense. I don't think out the plot ahead of time.

Tags: End, Time, Try

Maybe it's like becoming one with the cigar. You lose yourself in it; everything fades away: your worries, your problems, your thoughts. They fade into the smoke, and the cigar and you are at peace.

Tags: Peace, Thoughts, Yourself

I even smoke in bed. Imagine smoking a cigar in bed, reading a book. Next to your bed, there's a cigar table with a special cigar ashtray, and your wife is reading a book on how to save the environment.

Tags: Book, Special, Wife

Why pay $100 on a therapy session when you can spend $25 on a cigar? Whatever it is will come back; so what, smoke another one.

Tags: Another, Whatever, Why

It was a very profound experience, getting in touch with that part of us, in all of us human beings, that is committed beyond yourself to the point of giving everything you have, including your life, for other people, for your fellow man.

Tags: Experience, Life, Yourself

A cigar is as good as memories that you have when you smoked it.

Tags: Cigar, Good, Memories

I have a very deep care for Latin America, and, of course, for what was going on in El Salvador.

Tags: America, Care, Deep

I remember I was like five or six years old; I played the devil. That was my first role.

Tags: Devil, Old, Remember

There are 38,000 people dying of hunger each day and most are children. And, being a celebrity, I communicate about it as much as I can.

Tags: Children, Dying, Hunger

Instead of acting in court, I decided to act onstage.

Tags: Act, Acting, Decided

Sometimes we used to eat once a day... chicken backs. You could buy four chicken backs for a quarter.

Tags: Once, Sometimes, Used

Thank God for the theater.

Tags: God, Thank, Theater

We tend to think of meditation in only one way. But life itself is a meditation.

Tags: Life, Meditation, Tend

You have to have the right atmosphere, really be in the right mood to really fully enjoy a Cohiba.

Tags: Atmosphere, Enjoy, Mood

I knew there was something special about the theater for me something beyond the regular reality, something that I could get into and transcend and become something other than myself.

Tags: Become, Reality, Special

Just the fact that I've lived more, and I'm not concerned about when I am going to get my next job anymore. This business is free-lance and it's not a steady job. Younger, I would have been more preoccupied with myself.

Tags: Business, Fact, Job