Tony Judt’s 10 Best Books on Europe

I look forward to reading Tony Judt‘s new book, Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945.

Here is his list with comments (from Amazon.com) on recommended books on 20th century Europe,

Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
‘Vera Brittain: Testament of Youth: An Autobiographical Study of the Years 1900-1925 (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics)’: A poignant account by a privileged young upper middle-class Englishwoman of the shattering impact of war and loss, unusual for its ‘home-front’ perspective and as moving today as it was when first published seventy years ago.

Wartime by Milovan Djilas
‘Wartime’: Djilas fought at Tito’s side in the bloody, internecine partisan warfare of World War Two Yugoslavia–before breaking with the Communist leader in peacetime and being imprisoned for his dissent. His war memoir captures better than any other single book the historical background to the tragedy of modern Yugoslavia.

The Passing of an Illusion by François Furet
‘The Passing of an Illusion : The Idea of Communism in the Twentieth Century’: A brilliant essay on the political illusions of the age under the guise of a history of the Communist idea in the twentieth century. For Furet, like Eric Hobsbawm, the story of twentieth-century Europe is in large measure the story of the rise and fall of Communism: in Hobsbawm’s case as hope, in Furet’s case as hallucination. This subtle book is a model of polemical history writing.

Life and Fate by Vassily Grossman
‘Life and Fate’: Vassily Grossman’s great novel, banned by Soviet censors, was only published many decades after its author’s death. Grossman served as a war reporter with the Red Army during World War Two and his account of life under Stalin and during the ‘Great Patriotic War’–notably his description of the epic Battle of Stalingrad–is unmatched in fiction and historical writing alike.

The Age of Extremes by Eric J. Hobsbawm
‘The Age of Extremes : A History of the World, 1914-1991 (Vintage)’: ‘The Age of Extremes’ is the best single history of the twentieth century, at once illuminated and shadowed by its author’s life-long allegiance to Marxism. Eric Hobsbawm, the most naturally gifted historian of his time, writes with rare clarity and elegance; he distills and explains a huge body of information with deceptive, unmatched ease. This is first-rate history for intelligent readers.

The Trial by Franz Kafka
‘The Trial’: The most important work by the twentieth century’s most original writer, ‘The Trial’ is more than a disturbing and unique work of fiction. It is also terrifying in its uncanny prescience, offering an eerily precise portrait of the workings of totalitarian systems that did not yet even exist when Kafka died in 1924.

Hitler by Ian Kershaw
‘Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris’ and ‘Hitler: 1936-1945: Nemesis’: Kershaw’s two-volume biography of Adolf Hitler is unique not only in its exhaustive account of the German dictator’s life and works but above all in the skill with which the author balances attention to individual moral and political responsibility with a grasp of the context and circumstances without which Hitler would have remained a nonentity. By far the best biography of the most influential individual of the century.

Under a Cruel Star by Heda Kovaly
‘Under a Cruel Star: A Life in Prague 1941-1968’: The recollections of a Czech Jew, who survived Auschwitz only to lose her husband to the show trials of Communist Czechoslovakia in 1952 and her country to Soviet tanks in 1968. Neither apologetic nor embittered, Kovaly’s clear-eyed account of the tragedy of Eastern European Communism isunique.

Christ Stopped at Eboli by Carlo Levi
‘Christ Stopped at Eboli : The Story of a Year’: The memoirs of a Jewish doctor from Turin, exiled by Mussolini to a village in the impoverished uplands of southern Italy, describe a remote and backward world now vanished beyond recall, unknown and unrecognizable to today’s Europeans.

Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi
‘Survival In Auschwitz’: Of all the memoirs, recollections, and analyses of the destruction of Europe’s Jews, Primo Levi’s account of his time in Auschwitz is the most thoughtful, the most observant, and–in the calm precision of its description of Hell on earth–the most devastating of them all.

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