I blogged late last year about Tony Judt’s extraordinary Remarque Lecture, which the historian delivered from a wheelchair, stricken by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Despite his afflictions, which mean he has to dictate everything he writes (not to mention the fact that he requires round-the-clock care), Judt has since turned that lecture, entitled “What Is Living and What Is Dead in Social Democracy?”, into a book, Ill Fares the Land, reviewed in the last issue of the New Statesman by David Herman. (Geoffrey Wheatcroft also discussed the book in his recent essay for the magazine on the future of the welfare state.)
And he keeps on writing. Among the highlights in the New York Review of Books over the past few months have been the fragments of memoir that Judt has been contributing to the paper – drawing the arc of his life and career from a 1950s South London adolescence, via Cambridge and an Israeli kibbutz, to New York and eminence as an essayist as well as academic.
Next month, Saul Goldberg, a former student of Judt’s at New York University, will cycle across the United States to raise money for Project ALS, which supports research into the disease that has cut short the life of one of our greatest public intellectuals.