Tony Judt Dies at 62

Historian Tony Judt, who taught at NYU, died Friday of Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS). From The Guardian‘s obituary:

In his guise as a political and historical essayist, he was a fearless critic of narrow orthodoxies and bullying cliques, from communist apologists to the Israel lobby, from “liberal hawks” to progressive educationists. And his political writings have proved not only perceptive but often prophetic.

And controversial. As The Times recounts:

His views on Israel made Mr. Judt an increasingly polarizing figure. He placed himself in the midst of a bitter debate when, in 2003, he outlined a one-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian problem in The New York Review of Books, proposing that Israel accept a future as a secular, bi-national state in which Jews and Arabs enjoyed equal status.

In 2006, a scheduled talk at the Polish Consulate in Manhattan was abruptly canceled for reasons later hotly disputed, but apparently under pressure, explicit or implicit, from the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee.

Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic, told The New York Observer at the time that Mr. Judt, on Israel, “has become precisely the kind of intellectual whom his intellectual heroes would have despised.” Mr. Judt’s name had been removed from the masthead of the magazine, where he had been a contributing editor, after his article on the one-state solution.

Judt became ill two years ago but continued to work, describing the his experience of the disease in a series of essays for The New York Review of Books:

What is distinctive about ALS—the least common of this family of neuro-muscular illnesses—is firstly that there is no loss of sensation (a mixed blessing) and secondly that there is no pain. In contrast to almost every other serious or deadly disease, one is thus left free to contemplate at leisure and in minimal discomfort the catastrophic progress of one’s own deterioration.

Visit NPR and Tablet to read recent interviews with Judt. Judt’s work for The New York Review of Books can be found here. Tony Judt Dies at 62