Leading article: A good death

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The Independent Online

Tony Judt was a fine historian, a specialist in the 20th century, and a prolific author who never shied away from controversy. That, until two years ago, is how he would have been remembered, and his writing and teaching would have been monument enough. But now, for every one person who knew and admired him for his scholarship, there will probably be many, many more who will mourn him for the fortitude he showed in his last illness, the fearlessness with which he spoke about it, and the strength of his determination to use every moment he had left.

Increasingly paralysed with motor neurone disease, he rushed to complete his last book, Ill Fares The Land, an impassioned polemic that denounced what he saw as the wasted opportunities of the post-Cold War years, lambasted the dogma and greed that, in his view, triggered recent wars and the global financial crisis, and called for a return to social democracy – an imperfect political philosophy, but better than all the rest.

In interviews, granted unstintingly so long as he was able, he spoke of his illness with cool factuality and without self-pity. In so doing, he not only became an inspiration to others, but fostered wider awareness of this cruel disease that is still without a cure.