Mark's Reviews > The Memory Chalet

The Memory Chalet by Tony Judt
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's review
Sep 14, 11

bookshelves: autobiography, memoir, non-fiction
Read from August 31 to September 13, 2011

I'm not sure this memoir is quite as remarkable as the circumstances under which it was written, but I enjoyed it nevertheless.

Tony Judt was a British-born historian and expert on Eastern Europe, and when he wrote this memoir, he already was largely incapacitated by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which meant he had to dictate it day by day. To organize his thoughts for each chapter, he would spend his evenings mentally situating them in different parts of a Swiss chalet that he fondly remembered from family visits (thus the title of the book).

Judt recalls life growing up in England after World War II, the poverty everyone endured in the immediate postwar period, the comfort he derived from riding the Green Line bus through London, and his early years working on kibbutzim as an idealistic young Zionist who was soon disenchanted by his encounters with actual Zionists.

The book also covers his years at Cambridge as it transitioned from a highly traditional school for the monied or meritocratic elite to the more democratic and possibly inferior school it is today.

He also touches on sexual politics, his later in life discovery of Eastern Europe's literature and politics and his complicated relationship with Judaism.

What he doesn't dwell on are his first two failed marriages or his disease, or in fact much of what makes him tick emotionally.

Judt is literate, has some provocative ideas and his childhood recollections are entertaining, but if anyone expects a high-class version of Tuesdays with Morrie, this is not it.

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09/01/2011 page 32
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Fionnuala I valued this book particularly because he didn't mention any details about his personal life or his ex-wives.

Mark You don't often get such self restraint nowadays, do you?

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