In The Purpose of the Past: Reflections on the Uses of History (2008), the distinguished American historian Gordon Wood warns against the distortions of reading the present into the past or seeing the present as an inevitable outcome of events in the past. At the same time, he knows that present-mindedness is not entirely avoidable. Its complete absence from a historical perspective turns into antiquarianism.
Tony Judt lost his courageous battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Shortly before his death, he appeared on the Charlie Rose program, strapped to a chair, speaking through an enabling device with astonishing force and clarity on a wide range of subjects. I can’t imagine anyone, whether critic or admirer, unmoved by the scene.