Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Requiescat in pace John Adalbert Lukacs: Remembering a great historian who has been called home.

"I am not a survivor. I am a crumbling remnant. A remnant of the very end of the Bourgeois Age and a remnant of the Age of Books. Ave atque vale." - John Lukacs, Surrounded by Books, November 2, 2017
John Adalbert Lukacs: January 31, 1924 - May 6, 2019
He was a happy pessimist who gave his readers decades of great books of and about history.  In other words he was a Christian man of letters, who was a practicing Catholic and of Jewish ancestry.  The Times of Israel, in his obituary, quoted from his memoir: "Because of the goodness of God,” he concluded in his memoir, “I have had a happy unhappy life, which is preferable to an unhappy happy one."

On March 7, 2006 John Lukacs gave the George Herbert Walker, Jr. Lecture at Yale University and thankfully his presentation is available online.

Below are a selection of some of his many quotes and ideas that had an impact on my thinking over the years. The first is taken from a series of quotations selected by the Acton Institute.

Patriotism and racism are incompatible:     
"Populism is folkish, patriotism is not. One can be a patriot and a cosmopolitan. But a populist is inevitably a nationalist of sorts. Patriotism, too, is less racist than is populism. A patriot will not exclude a person of another nationality from the community where they have lived side by side and whom he has known for many years, but a populist will always remain suspicious of someone who does not seem to belong to his tribe."  - Democracy and Populism: Fear and Hatred, 2005.

The second from an extensive essay in Chronicles Magazine on the end of the age of the book.

Blessings of Old Age:
The “Blessings of Old Age”?  Oh, not at all.  How very soon I shall be dead.  In a year?  In a few months?  In a few weeks?  I hope that I will not be constrained to move from here to a communal nursing home.  I hope; but I cannot know.  What I know is that, after my death, this library, this house, will instantly be changed.  - Surrounded by Books, 2009

The third is taken from The New York Review of Books and is a review of  The Devils’ Alliance: Hitler’s Pact with Stalin, 1939–1941 by Roger Moorhouse.

Hitler - Stalin Pact:
In the vast literature about Stalin and Hitler during World War II, little is said about their being allies for twenty-two months. That is more than an odd chapter in the history of that war, and its meaning deserves more attention than it has received. - Monsters Together, 2015

In 1982, in the midst of the Cold War, the challenge of Poland to the Soviet Empire was examined on Firing Line with William F. Buckely  Jr. , Dr. Lukacs, and Thomas Molnar.

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