Ta-Nehisi Coates is best known for his writing about racism in America—in particular, his 2014 essay “The Case for Reparations,” and his 2015 book, Between the World and Me. Ta-Nehisi’s readers know that the toll racism has inflicted on the bodies of Black people, and the enduring power of white supremacy, have long preoccupied him. On this show, however, he’ll be talking about a subject—or rather an influence—that few people associate with his work.
That influence is the late Tony Judt, a British historian. In 2005, Judt published his magnum opus, Postwar, a sweeping, 933-page history of modern Europe.
In this conversation, which was recorded last fall, Ta-Nehisi talks about why Postwar had such a profound impact on him. He explores the preface he wrote to Ill Fares the Land, another of Judt’s books, which has just been reissued by Penguin. He also talks about the power of language to help us imagine a better world, whether he identifies as an Afro-pessimist, and what it’s like to grow up in a nationalist household.
View a transcript of the episode here.
Mentioned in this episode:
- The Remarque Forums
- “Bush’s Useful Idiots,” Tony Judt (2006)
- Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, Tony Judt (2005)
- “The Case for Reparations,” Ta-Nehisi Coates (2014)
- Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015)
- Ill Fares the Land, Tony Judt (2010)
- Jennifer Homans
- James M. McPherson
- Gordon S. Wood
- Letters to a Young Contrarian, Christopher Hitchens (2001)
- Andrew Sullivan
- James Baldwin
- Toni Morrison
- The Autobiography of Malcolm X, as told to Alex Haley (1965)
- Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, David W. Blight (2018)
- Thinking the Twentieth Century, Tony Judt with Timothy Snyder (2012)
Primary Sources is a co-production of Public Books and Type Media Center. Our show’s executive producer is Caitlin Zaloom, a founding editor of Public Books. Our producer is DJ Cashmere. Our engineer is Jess Engebretson. Special thanks to Kelley Deane McKinney, the publisher and managing editor of Public Books and Taya Grobow, executive director of Type Media Center. Our theme music is “Kitty in the Window,” composed by Podington Bear (Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International License).