4 November 2009

1989 !

Timothy Garten Ash has a long review essay in the New York Review of Books on writing about 1989. Here's his conclusion (though there is also to be a second part next week):
The year 1989 was one of the best in European history. Indeed, I am hard pushed to think of a better one. It was also a year in which the world looked to Europe—specifically to Central Europe, and, at the pivotal moment, to Berlin. World history—using the term in a quasi-Hegelian sense—was made in the heart of the old continent, just down the road from Hegel's old university, now called the Humboldt University. Twenty years later, I am tempted to speculate (while continuing to work with other Europeans in an endeavor to prove this hunch wrong) that this may also have been the last occasion—at least for a very long time—when world history was made in Europe. Today, world history is being made elsewhere. There is now a Café Weltgeist at the Humboldt University, but the Weltgeist itself has moved on. Of Europe's long, starring role on the world stage, future generations may yet say: nothing became her like the leaving of it.
In any case, the longer-term consequences of 1989 are only now beginning to emerge. They, too, belong in the synthetic global history of 1989 that, partly for this reason, could not have been written sooner. But after two decades, the time has come for a brilliant young historian—at home in many languages; capable of empathizing both with powerholders and with so-called ordinary people; a writer of distinction; tenured, but with few teaching obligations; well-funded for extensive research on several continents; Stakhanovite in work habits; monastic in private life—to start writing this necessary, almost impossible masterpiece: a kind of Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk of modern history. With luck, he or she should have it ready for the thirtieth anniversary, in 2019.


Jane said...

ah well I suppose you would love to do that research - even if your personal habits are not quite so monastic and you are no longer quite so young or so tenured - maybe it should be suggested to the Thompsons

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