We replay a programme first broadcast in December 2010. Historian Tony Judt (The Memory Chalet, Ill Fares the Land) who died that year, is remembered on the programme by writer and commentator Fintan O'Toole; Professor of History at Yale University Timothy Snyder, who was collaborating with him on the book, Thinking the Twentieth Century; and Judt's editor at the New York Review of Books, Robert Silvers. With excerpts from an interview with Tony Judt broadcast on BBC Radio 3's Nightwaves programme.
Some of Judt's columns for the Review written while suffering from the debilitating illness ALS, a progressive motor neuron disease, were collected and published as The Memory Chalet (Penguin).
Judt's great area of interest was the emergence of social democracy in Europe after the Second World War, as chronicled in his acclaimed book Post War (2005), but his most passionate writing in recent years, according to Professor Snyder, had to do with American engagements, such as Iraq and Israel. "His concern was social democracy... he was concerned about the future of the United States. Here is a country that might still yet be reformed."
And Robert Silvers stays on to talk to Vincent Woods about the founding of the Review in 1963 during a typesetters' strike at the New York Times, with his friends Jason and Barbara Epstein, and its extraordinary and rich history at the heart of American journalism ever since.
Robert Silvers continues to edit the paper; his co-editor Barbara Epstein died in 2006. Over the years, they have published writers such as Susan Sontag, Hannah Arendt, Isaiah Berlin, Norman Mailer, Arthur Miller, Gore Vidal, Philip Roth, John Banville, Fintan O’Toole, Colm Toibin, and the above-mentioned Tony Judt: "Writers... who were independent of mind, who were not constricted by official and conventional obligations, who had a sense of intellectual traditions in the past, these sorts of minds were the ones we thought should be writing about current issues.
"Often their views were quite conflicting, and that’s fine. The point has not been to have a single discernible political line but rather to give people who we thought were admirable in their moral and intellectual qualities, a chance to say what they thought was the case.
"We were very privileged as editors. We had more editorial freedom, and I have now, than anyone probably in the history of long standing American journals. We can do what we want and therefore have no excuses."
Producer: Sarah Binchy