Tony Judt

Tony Judt

In “Politics and the English Language,” Orwell castigated contemporaries for using language to mystify rather than inform. His critique was directed at bad faith: people wrote poorly because they were trying to say something unclear or else deliberately prevaricating. Our problem, it seems to me, is different. Shoddy prose today bespeaks intellectual insecurity: we speak and write badly because we don’t feel confident in what we think and are reluctant to assert it unambiguously (“It’s only my opinion…”). Rather than suffering from the onset of “newspeak,” we risk the rise of “nospeak.”

I am more conscious of these considerations now than at any time in the past. In the grip of a neurological disorder, I am fast losing control of words even as my relationship with the world has been reduced to them. They still form with impeccable discipline and unreduced range in the silence of my thoughts—the view from inside is as rich as ever—but I can no longer convey them with ease. Vowel sounds and sibilant consonants slide out of my mouth, shapeless and inchoate even to my close collaborator. The vocal muscle, for sixty years my reliable alter ego, is failing. Communication, performance, assertion: these are now my weakest assets. Translating being into thought, thought into words, and words into communication will soon be beyond me and I shall be confined to the rhetorical landscape of my interior reflections.

Though I am now more sympathetic to those constrained to silence I remain contemptuous of garbled language. No longer free to exercise it myself, I appreciate more than ever how vital communication is to the republic: not just the means by which we live together but part of what living together means. The wealth of words in which I was raised were a public space in their own right—and properly preserved public spaces are what we so lack today. If words fall into disrepair, what will substitute? They are all we have.

-- Tony Judt, "Words," The New York Review of Books, July 15, 2010.

Tony Judt, Chronicler of History, Is Dead at 62

America Is Very Good at That

That Saturday morning, as I lay there waiting, the house was empty and had been for a while, apart from my inflato-mattress and the furniture the buyers had bought. I rather liked it. It made me feel monkish. I live in such a clutter of books and things in San Francisco. I would be pleased to live like this, here, through the winter. I would be pleased simply to live here, simply. Or not simply. No one need know I’m here. I’d keep the lights off but for a small reading lamp. I could slip out to the 24-hour A&P up by the high school in the middle of the night. I like 24-hour supermarkets at 3 a.m. I like them more than museums. America is very good at that sort of thing.


Princess Sparkle Pony’s Photo Blog.
Harriet Miers’s Weblog. The Potted Meat Museum. Association of International Glaucoma Societies. “In this frame of mind it occurred to me to put the question directly to myself: ‘Suppose that all your objects in life were realized; that all the changes in institution and opinions which you are looking forward to, could be completely effected at this very instant: would this be a great joy and happiness to you?’ And an irrepressible self-consciousness distinctly answered, “No!” At this my heart sank within me: the whole foundation on which my life was constructed fell down.” — John Stuart Mill. Classic Hawaiian music. September 10, 2005 was World Naked Gardening Day. RogerART.com. Franz’s website. INTERNATIONAL CAPS LOCK DAY WEBSITE. One Global Communty. The Tax History Museum. Improv Everywhere. The Official Flat Stanley Project.


Terry Eagleton reviews Robert O. Paxton’s The Anatomy of Fascism. Devon Largio’s “Uncovering the Rationales for the War on Iraq: The Words of the Bush Administration, Congress, and the Media from September 12, 2001 to October 11, 2002″ (Senior Honors Thesis, Political Science, University of Illinois, 2004). Readprint.com: a library of texts. Introductory Statistics: Concepts, Models, and Applications, by David Stockburger. Structured Procrastination, by John Perry. David Rey’s Darwinian Poetry Project. A collection of eyewitness accounts.


Soviet war photography at Howard Schickler Fine Art. A Mike Disfarmer gallery. Five thousand photographs by Bret Wallach. Photos of occupied Japan. The Bush asshole mosaic and the Ashcroft porn mosaic. The Bush dead soldier mosaic. Photos of derelict London and Britannia Moribundia. Rob Dobi’s photos of New England ruins. Some Japanese ruins. Photos of the ice-encrusted Sir William Alexander. Shaun O’Boyle’s ruin photography. Mark-Steffen Göwecke’s photos within photos.