Europe has rewarded British historian Tony Judt for his study of how the continent recovered from the horrors of World War Two. “Apres Guerre” or “Postwar” won the European Book Prize at a ceremony in Brussels, although medical reasons kept the author himself in New York. “The question people ask is not ‘tell us about Europe’s problems’ but ‘tell us how the Europeans did it.’ Explain to us, particularly if I’m speaking about my book, how Europe overcame its past,” Judt said.
The immense work – it is nearly 900 pages long – takes the devastation left in post-war Europe as its starting point. Explaining what happened from there was a difficult task, as Judt recognises:“The problem with writing a history of Europe, of course, is that it is never possible to do it justice and very easy to miss the appropiate level of comprehension.”
But the European Union’s foreign policy chief believes Judt has got it right. Guest of honour on the 60th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, Javier Solana said: “If anyone wants to know what happened on this continent after the Second World, they have to read this book.”
The prize seeks to contribute to European citizens’ better understanding of the EU. Hence a hint of mischief from last year’s winner, the former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt. He suggested “Postwar” be given to the people of Ireland so that they, perhaps, vote “yes” in any future referendum on the bloc’s Lisbon Treaty.