John Gray

Hastening Ills

Ill Fares the Land: A Treatise on Our Present Discontents

By

Allen Lane/The Penguin Press 237pp £20 order from our bookshop

Ill Fares the Land must surely be one of the most remarkable books on politics to have appeared for a very long time. A part of the book’s compelling interest comes from the circumstances in which it was written. Diagnosed not much more than eighteen months ago as suffering from a variant of amyotropic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a variant of motor neurone disease, Tony Judt is paralysed from the neck down, and if the disease runs its expected course a time cannot be very far off when communication will become extremely difficult. Originating in a public lecture last August at New York University which Judt delivered with a breathing tube attached to his face, and later dictated to his assistant over a period of eight weeks, the book is the work of a man who describes himself as ‘a bunch of dead muscles, thinking’. 

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