Daryl Cagle, MSNBC.com

Century Marks

To tell the truth: Tony Judt, author of Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, says that the stability of Europe in the postwar years depended on the ability of many countries to forget what had happened between 1939 and 1945. Yet no society can move beyond painful memories until they are addressed publicly. Here the historian has a role. The historian’s task, says Judt, “is to tell what is almost always an uncomfortable story and explain why the discomfort is part of the truth we need to live well and live properly. A well-organized society is one in which we know the truth about ourselves collectively, not one in which we tell pleasant lies about ourselves” (Historically Speaking, January-February).

 

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