Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Sudden sadness

Since we were away at a conference last weekend and I was not paying much attention to the internet, I've only made the sad discovery today that one of my colleagues in the History Department, Dr. Mark Pittaway -- a specialist on the political, social and economic history of eastern and central Europe, particularly Hungary -- died last week, aged only 39.

I didn't know Mark as well as I'd have liked, but he was consistently (though humbly) brilliant and always good company. When he drove me back to the train station after another colleague's retirement party last year, we agreed that we really needed to be in touch more often. Sadly, we never really managed it (always, as ever, too much to do....), and I for one am now sorry I'll never have the chance to follow up on that suggestion of his.

Chris has left a fine tribute at Blood & Treasure that captures something essential about what it was like being around Mark:

I remember him laughing as he showed me a pair of peer reviews he'd received for an article: one called it an incisive and nuanced view of labour relations and regime legitimacy in postwar Hungary; the other said that Dr Pittaway was an evil charlatan and an apologist for Stalinist genocide, and thus the article must under no circumstances be published. The editor, safe in the (nearly always) less politicized atmosphere of British historiography, plumped for the former.

Yes, that's how I'll remember Mark: laughing.

As Chris notes, Mark 'made the right enemies for some damn fine reasons, and that's not a bad measure of a man'.

True. And as the tributes here testify, he also made some good friends for some equally fine reasons.

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