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The Memory Chalet

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  1,282 Ratings  ·  180 Reviews
Selected by The New York Times Book Review as a Notable Book of the Year Final reflections on a happy life-from acclaimed historian Tony Judt.

Tony Judt's The Memory Chalet is a memoir unlike any other. Each essay brings the smallest details of personal experience into the larger frame of history. Judt's youthful love of a London bus route becomes a reflection on public c
Paperback, 240 pages
Published October 25th 2011 by Penguin Books (first published November 11th 2010)
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This has to be one of the sadder books I’ve read. It’s not quite on the level of Memories of my Melancholy Whores , which I couldn’t even bear to finish, or quite the terror that 1984 was, and doesn’t have the anguish of End of the Affair. It was sad in a different way.

Tony Judt died last year of ALS, a degenerative disease that left him increasingly immobile- first just in fingers and toes, then entire arms and legs until he could not move at all. In the first essay of this collection, he matte
Nov 20, 2015 Jonfaith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The young woman was flabbergasted: the only form of discrimination she could imagine was sexual. It had never occurred to her that I might just be an elitist.

Allow an extra 1.25 stars for the circumstances of its origin. This is series of light pieces, incipient memory exercise that Judt steadied his mind with during the interminable nights of his terminal affliction with ALS. There is some fascinating material here, especially of a intellectual historical basis. Much appears to have been imagin
A moving, thought provoking book by a man in the final stages of a neurodegenerative disorder for whom roaming the corridors of his own mind is about the only pleasure left in life. But what wonderful reflections he leaves us as he wanders through the rooms of his personal memory chalet; thoughts about train travel, growing up in post war London, the British education system, an adolescent dalliance with Labour Zionism, life at Cambridge, revolution, living in New York, national identities versu ...more
Táňa Sedláková
dychberúca a hlavurozširujúca šleha! z ktorej keď sa spamätám, tak napíšem rozvinuté vety. (11/1)

dopĺňam dojmy (13/1)

Čaká ma dlhá cesta vlakom. Keď ho zazriem v nedeľný podvečer prichádzať na ufúľanú bratislavskú stanicu, poteším sa. Predstavujem si, ako budeme v teplom kupéčku - spolu s ostatnými prevažne vzdelávacím systémom vyhostenými a po poznaní hladujúcimi študentmi a študentkami - ako krvinky v tepne pretínať uzimené polia a lesy. Ešte iba tuším - neviem, že ma čaká dočítanie krásnej ži
I have such mixed feelings about this book - but I am not sure whether some of those are not mixed feelings about my own motivations in choosing to read the book. He lays his cards on the table from the beginning, describing with a cool bitterness exactly what it means to have ALS. Judt's was an interesting life, shorter than it should have been, and he moves with ease between his secular Jewish upbringing in Putney, why he learned Czech, his time as a kibbutzim, driving across America and plent ...more
Cindy Knoke
Sep 23, 2012 Cindy Knoke rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such a haunting and beautiful book by such a brilliant man.

While dying of ALS Judt envisions heaven as a train on which he rides continuously through the Alps. This evocative imagery has stayed with me and probably always will.

While becoming progressively “locked in” by ALS, Judt’s mind remains very much alive. He escapes into “the memory chalet,” a Swiss chalet he stayed in on holidays as a child. He recalls in his memory every room, nook and cranny, the smells, the food, the snow, the happy
Lauren Albert
Judt's tragic death from Lou Gehrig's disease was preceded by its horrifying symptoms--a creeping paralysis which makes movement and then communication impossible. While he lay in bed each night, unable to move from his bed, Judt composed these wonderful essays in his head and then dictated them the next day. After having read both this and Ill Fares the Land, I can only say that if one must be trapped inside a mind--unimaginable as that is--I can think of few minds it would be better to be trap ...more
Jul 15, 2011 Guy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays, biography
Goodreads' custom of using the text from the inside of the front hardcover dust-jacket as their summary goes awry here by leaving out a critical fact (which is on the back cover): Tony Judt wrote this book while in the terminal stages of ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease), a neuro-degenerative disorder that progressively paralyses the sufferer's body while leaving the mind totally untouched. Most people who get it die within a couple of years, usually of suffocation, or of complications du ...more
Jan 04, 2011 Darryl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tony Judt (1948-2010), one of the 21st century's leading public intellectuals, was born in postwar London to Jewish parents, educated at Cambridge and the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, and taught at several universities, most notably Cambridge, UC Berkeley and NYU. He wrote several acclaimed books on 20th century European history, including Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century and Past Imperfect: French Intellectuals, 1944-195 ...more
Courtney Johnston
A 'memory palace', Judt says in this introduction of short biographical texts, is too big, too opulent for his state of mind right now. But a memory chalet - like the small, homey place he stayed with his family as a 10-year-old on a trip to Switzerland when finances were unusually good - yes, a memory chalet he could handle.

'Memory palace' here refers to the memory trick, of laying out a speech or train of thought for later recall by pinning each point to a familiar feature of a building. It's
Nov 22, 2016 Sauli rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I usually don't write reviews, but..

Nostalgy for something you never experienced is a curious feeling. This book tells us about a world that has dissappeared. A world of arrogant French intellectuals debating abstract theories and declaring that everything must be destroyed before it can be built again. A world of old-school university teachers who didn't seem to give a damn whether their students are following them or not. A world of lenghty discussions, very erudite and very irresponsible abou
Feb 20, 2017 Dan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
includes a stark insights into the world of ALS sufferers that hit home
Aug 05, 2012 Marc rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
"After the war", the magnum opus of Judt was impressive. And also in this book he proves he was a very judicious historian and observer of his time. On top of that, what he had to go through, at the end of his life, struggling with ALS, was horrible. But progressive circles have made him into a cult figure, the last guardian of the social democratic legacy (social democratic in the broad sense of the word), and really, that is too much honor.
In this book Judt looks back on his life and to be ho
Aug 24, 2012 Isidora rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Utdrag ur boken:
"Det finns ett slags stig som följer Mürrens miniatyrjärnväg. Halvvägs ligger ett litet kafé - den enda stationen under färden - som serverar det vanliga utbudet av schweizisk vägmat. Framför faller berget brant ner i sprickdalen nedanför. Bakom kan man klättra upp till fäbodarna med kor och getter och herdar. Eller så kan man invänta nästa tåg: förutsägbart, punktligt och precist på sekunden. Ingenting händer: Det är den lyckligaste platsen i världen. Vi kan inte välja var vi sk
Sep 23, 2011 Will rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
It's a very moving and beautifully written series of memoirs which he wrote as he was dying of ALS, and revisiting his life was essentially the only thing he could do to occupy his time. But it is totally without self-pity, he says at one point “loss is loss and there no sense in making it nicer”
As someone who wasn't brought up Jewish, there are many places that I could identify with his experiences and his observations are so spot-on that I kept saying to myself, yes, that's exactly what I woul
Matthew Trevithick
Aug 02, 2015 Matthew Trevithick rated it really liked it
Enjoyable memoir, hard not to like his walkthrough of his memory palaces, which he increasingly relied on as he became more and more immobile.
Jim Ament
Jan 29, 2011 Jim Ament rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
The Memory Chalet, by Tony Judt— Review also posted on

Tony Judt, a British Jew educated at Cambridge and the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, was a renowned scholar, historian, teacher, and intellectual. And he wrote this lucid memoir while dying of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He had to dictate much of the book, and the early descriptions of being a prisoner in his own body were straightforward and chilling
Ip Christ
Mar 02, 2017 Ip Christ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ένα απολαυστικό, συγκινητικό και σοφό βιβλίο από έναν πρόωρα χαμένο πραγματικό και γενναίο "διανοούμενο" (η λέξη έχει φθαρεί ανεπανόρθωτα, αλλά κάποιες λίγες φορές έχει το νόημά της) που προτίμησε τον Keynes από τον Hayek, τον Aron, τον Camus και τον Milosz από τον Sartre και τον Althusser, που δεν είχε πρόβλημα να είναι τόσο κατά του Στάλιν και των συνοδοιπόρων του στην Δύση όσο και κατά του Bush, του Blair και των χρήσιμων ηλιθίων που τους υποστήριξαν στην τραγωδία του Ιράκ, που μπορούσε να εί ...more
Sep 19, 2012 Danny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's hard to separate the contents of this book from the circumstances in which it was written. Trapped in an increasingly immobile body, Judt composed stories (essays, really) at night to keep his mind occupied and to divert his attention from the fact that he simply couldn't move. That struggle to maintain sanity runs through the whole book and starts the whole thing off on a somber note.

And yet, I found myself frequently smiling and even laughing as I read this. This isn't a matter of a sacch
Apr 16, 2012 Tuck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: europa, essays
a personal history of tony judt's moral and scholastic education. judt is/was arguably on of the most insightful historians in early 21st century, who died tragically young at 60. he is usa's very own intellectual (god knows we don;t have a whole lot of em' to flaunt around) in the tradition of french public intellectuals like bernard levy Public Enemies.
judt has his last book just out too Thinking the Twentieth Century

in "chalet" when he is talking about usa, living in usa, nyc etc, he is asked
Kasa Cotugno
This book, like The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, is an unusual memoir written by a man of accomplishment who has been felled by disease, in this case, ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease. Tony Judt had written many books establishing him as an intellectual of powerful talent, when he wrote what he calls these essays fueled by memory. He gives the best account of life in post WWII London I've read in a long time, but I was particularly taken with his rumination on train travel and his love of going off ...more
Patrick L
Nov 23, 2010 Patrick L rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Absolutely perfect - I couldn't care less, honestly, about the physical limitations he had to surmount in order to write/dictate this, degenerative disease be damned, this book doesn't require any sympathy from a reader to stand up on its own. Tony Judt's led a remarkable life and should necessarily be proud about the way he's approached life so his years being bookended by what must have been a horrifically debilitative disease should scarcely matter. Provoking throughout, completely humble, an ...more
Jul 01, 2015 Patricia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A memoir told through a collection of memories and stories written by Judt in the final years of his life. Judt (1948-2010) was diagnosed with ALS and wanted to document his final stories before he could no longer physically write. Judt is a Jewish intellectual and is best known for his book Postwar about Europe after 1945. He recants stories traveling by train, his father's love of cars, his marriages, studying at Cambridge and at Ecole Normale in France, and he taught politics at Oxford and hi ...more
Apr 30, 2011 Holly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011-reads
I just knew this book would be special. How sadly disheartening that we can look forward to no new works from Tony Judt. He was a self-described "edge person": the "fierce unconditional loyalties -- to a country, a God, and idea, or a man" had come to terrify him. He saw that "the thin veneer of civilization rests upon an illusory faith in our common humanity." I especially liked the final piece on Switzerland, since like Judt I've always been strangely drawn to the country -- even though it's b ...more
So far I am having trouble mustering the interest. It is well written, but the nostalgia is lost on me. It is best appreciated by the generation before me, and especially those with a connection to England and Europe. The links of personal experience to how it fits in with the broader narrative and culture of England/Europe/world are not as strong or developed as I expected.
Katarína Motalová
"Bytie mi vždy sposobovalo stres, pretože všade, kde som bol, bolo treba čosi vykonať, niekomu urobiť radosť, splniť si nejakú povinnosť, nedokonale zahrať dáku rolu. A vždy tam čosi nesedelo. Stávanie sa mi naopak prinášalo úľavu"
Nov 30, 2016 Graham rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Would that Goodreads allowed half-stars, because I'd like to give this 3.5.

Well that's a lame review, especially compared to Sauli's. (I'm graduating in two weeks and don't have any time, give me a break. :p )
Jan 20, 2017 Nick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great essays from a great mind.
Adrian Curtin
Jun 02, 2015 Adrian Curtin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thought-provoking memoir covering a range of experiences from childhood, trains, and society. It is a very personal book written from the confines of Judt's mind as he suffered from ALS.
Ben Lainhart
A moving look at the memory and past of a great mind whose body is slowly deteriorating.
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Born in 1948, Tony Judt was raised in the East End of London by a mother whose parents had immigrated from Russia and a Belgian father who descended from a line of Lithuanian rabbis. Judt was educated at Emanuel School, before receiving a BA (1969) and PhD (1972) in history from the University of Cambridge.

Like many other Jewish parents living in postwar Europe, his mother and father were secular,
More about Tony Judt...

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“Undergraduates today can select from a swathe of identity studies.... The shortcoming of all these para-academic programs is not that they concentrate on a given ethnic or geographical minority; it is that they encourage members of that minority to study themselves - thereby simultaneously negating the goals of a liberal education and reinforcing the sectarian and ghetto mentalities they purport to undermine.” 17 likes
“Love, it seems to me, is that condition in which one is most contentedly oneself. If this sounds paradoxical, remember Rilke’s admonition: love consists in leaving the loved one space to be themselves while providing the security within which the self may flourish. As a child, I always felt uneasy and a little constrained around people, my family in particular. Solitude was bliss, but not easily obtained. Being always felt stressful- wherever I was there was something to do, someone to please, a duty to be completed, a role inadequately fulfilled: something amiss. Becoming, on the other hand, was relief. I was never so happy as when I was going somewhere on my own, and the longer it took to get there, the better. Walking was pleasurable, cycling enjoyable, bus journeys fun. But the train was very heaven.” 8 likes
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