Garton Ash om Judt

Timothy Garton Ash har skrivit en runa över Tony Judt.

Critical though he was of French intellectuals, he shared with them a conviction that ideas matter. Being English, he thought facts matter too. As a historian, one of his most distinctive achievements was to integrate the intellectual and political history of twentieth-century Europe—revealing the multiple, sometimes unintended interactions over time of ideas and realities, thoughts and deeds, books and people.

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As an essayist and political commentator, he continued the great tradition of the spectateur engagé, the politically engaged but independent and critical intellectual.

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Unlike the other kind of polemical intellectual, he was always in good faith. And he was always serious. Not drearily earnest—he enjoyed the acrobatics of intellectualism as others enjoy baseball—but morally serious. This was as true in private chat as in public discourse. In what he said and wrote, there was always that moral edge. He felt what he himself called, in a study of three French political intellectuals, the burden of responsibility.

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[W]hile he liked to contrast the political and moral responsibility of Central European intellectuals such as Václav Havel or Czesław Miłosz (the subject of one of his last short essays) with the irresponsibility of Jean-Paul Sartre or Maurice Merleau-Ponty (especially in relation to the horrors of Stalinism), the truth is that he found a great positive exemplar in France too—Raymond Aron—and the French influence on his way of thinking was profound.

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Behind and before all this, there was a very English childhood spent in quiet southwestern suburbs of London such as Putney and Kingston, with their pubs, little shops, buses both red and green, and chuntering local trains. During his final illness, I was struck by how often he emphasized that he was, after all, English. Witness, for example, a remark he made at the beginning of his last public appearance, when he used the 2009 Remarque Lecture at NYU to deliver a heartfelt argument for a revived, rethought social democracy. Wrapped in a blanket on his large electric wheelchair, with a bi-pap breathing device strapped over his head, he observed that some colleagues had suggested he speak about his illness, in a suitably uplifting way. “But,” he said, “I’m English, and we don’t do ‘uplifting.’”

Under all those cosmopolitan layers, there was, I think, a solid foundation of English empiricism, English scepticism, and English liberalism.

Garton Ash om 1989

Timothy Garton Ash i The New York Review of Books:

Every writer on 1989 wrestles with an almost unavoidable human proclivity that psychologists have christened ”hindsight bias”—the tendency, that is, to regard actual historical outcomes as more probable than alternatives that seemed real at the time (for example, a Tiananmen-style crackdown in Central Europe). What actually happened looks as if it somehow had to happen. Henri Bergson talked of ”the illusions of retrospective determinism.” Explanations are then offered for what happened. As one scholar commented a few years after 1989: no one foresaw this, but everyone could explain it afterward.

A great virtue of Mary Elise Sarotte’s 1989 is that she makes the problem of hindsight bias explicit, and systematically explores the roads not taken. She reminds us, for example, how close East Germany may have come to bloodshed in Leipzig on October 9, 1989: the authorities mobilized a force of eight thousand men, including police, soldiers, and Stasi; hospitals were told to prepare beds for possible victims.

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The year 1989 was one of the best in European history. Indeed, I am hard pushed to think of a better one. It was also a year in which the world looked to Europe—specifically to Central Europe, and, at the pivotal moment, to Berlin. World history—using the term in a quasi-Hegelian sense—was made in the heart of the old continent, just down the road from Hegel’s old university, now called the Humboldt University. Twenty years later, I am tempted to speculate (while continuing to work with other Europeans in an endeavor to prove this hunch wrong) that this may also have been the last occasion—at least for a very long time—when world history was made in Europe. Today, world history is being made elsewhere. There is now a Café Weltgeist at the Humboldt University, but the Weltgeist itself has moved on. Of Europe’s long, starring role on the world stage, future generations may yet say: nothing became her like the leaving of it.

Garton Ash-intervju

Jag har tidigare beklagat det skrala intresset – och bokförlagens försummelse — av de klassiska böckerna om 1989. Igår hade dock Jan Eklund i DN ”gått till bokhyllan för att friska upp minnet” och skrev en text om Timothy Garton Ash (ej på nätet).

Det finns en väldigt trevlig och givande intervju med Garton Ash på Youtube. Från 1996.