Synopses & Reviews
Franand#231;ois Furet needs little introduction. Widely considered one of the leading historians of the French Revolution, he was a maverick for his time, shining a critical light on the entrenched Marxist interpretations that prevailed during the mid-twentieth century. Shortly after his death in 1997, theand#160;New York Review of Books
and#160;called him and#147;one of the most influential men in contemporary France.and#8221;and#160;Lies, Passions, and Illusions
and#160;is a fitting capstone to this celebrated authorand#8217;s oeuvre: a late-career conversation with philosopher Paul Ricoeur on the twentieth century writ large, a century of violence and turmoil, of unprecedented wealth and progress, in which history advanced, for better or worse, in quantum leaps.
This conversation would be, sadly, Furetand#8217;s lastand#151;he died while Ricoeur was completing his edits. Ricoeur did not want to publish his half without Furetand#8217;s approval, so what remains is Furetand#8217;s alone, an astonishingly cohesive meditation on the political passions of the twentieth century. With strokes at once broad and incisive, he examines the many different trajectories that nations of the West have followed over the past hundred years. It is a dialogue with history as it happened but also as a form of thought. It is a dialogue with his critics, with himself, and with those major thinkersand#151;from Tocqueville to Hannah Arendtand#151;whose ideas have shaped our understanding of the tragic dramas and upheavals of the modern era. It is a testament to the crucial role of the historian, a reflection on how history is made and lived, and how the imagination is a catalyst for political change. Whether new to Furet or deeply familiar with his work, readers will find thought-provoking assessments on every page, a deeply moving look back at one of the most tumultuous periods of history and how we might learn and look forward from it.and#160;
and#8220;An intellectual and political testament.and#8221;
and#8220;A ghost talks to us of other ghosts, and all of it seems only too present, and even prophetic.and#8221;
and#8220;In 1996, Francois Furet had occasion to summarize his thinking about Communism, totalitarianism, democracy, Fascism, Nazism, and the assorted catastrophes of the twentieth century in a series of conversations with the philosopher Paul Ricoeur. In 1997, the tragically premature death of this great historian and wonderful man left a gaping hole in the community of scholars and in the larger world of intellectuals engaged in the core political debates of our time. This small gem of a book offers us Furetand#8217;s part of those conversations with all of the eloquence, clarity, subtletyand#8212;and a quiet but insistent courageand#8212;that made him one of the greatest historians and intellectuals of the last half century in Europe as well as in the United States, which he came to know and admire. In 2014, we now know that the era of lies and illusions of the twentieth century that many complacently thought was safely behind us remains a part of our present. Lies, Passions, and Illusions, by reminding us of how and why Europeand#8217;s twentieth century was one of too many catastrophes, offers important insights as to why that is the case.and#8221;
and#8220;These are lucid,and#160;searching reflections on the political passions that consumed the last century and continue to haunt our own. They offer an idealand#160;introduction to the thinking of one of the most perceptive and philosophical of modern historians and a powerful demonstration of the need forand#160;historical self-understanding in a democratic society.and#8221;
and#8220;One of the most influential men in contemporary France. . . . Nothing will ever be as it was before he came along.and#8221;
andldquo;Altogether, this short volume is a collection of illuminating historical reflections, lucidly spelled out and mercifully devoid of bombast and jargon. In Furetandrsquo;s writings, moral clarity and intellectual rigour merge marvellously. This book is not only about the past but also about the current European predicament, the resurgence of nationalist sentiments and emotions, and the pitfalls of new ideological siren songs. It should be read as a melancholy reflection on past delusions and a caveat about their possible return as humankind grapples with agonising uncertainties. In refusing to be seduced by optimistic paeans to irreversible social progress, Furet reminds us that democratic politics is a continuously endangered undertaking.andrdquo;and#160;
andldquo;A fitting coda to a remarkable intellectual career.andrdquo;and#160;
andldquo;Understanding our present condition requires that we reflect back on the complex legacy of hope and suffering bequeathed by the twentieth century. Franandccedil;ois Furet is one of the best guides we can follow on this journey of self-understanding and this short volume confirms it.andrdquo;
Written by one of the twentieth century's preeminent historians, Le passé d'une illusion is a penetrating history of the ideological passions that have fueled and characterized the modern era.
François Furet was acknowledged as the twentieth century's preeminent historian of the French Revolution. But years before his death, he turned his attention to the consequences and aftermath of another critical revolution—the Communist revolution. The result, Le passé d'une illusion, is a penetrating history of the ideological passions that have fueled and characterized the modern era.
About the Author
François Furet (1927-1997), educator and author, was a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor and was elected, in 1997, to become one of the "Forty Immortals" of the Académie Française, the highest intellectual honor in France. His many books include Interpreting the French Revolution, Marx and the French Revolution, and Revolutionary France. Deborah Furet, his widow, collaborated with him on many projects.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Franand#231;ois Furet and Paul Ricoeur:
A Dialogue Interruptedand#160;Christophe Prochassonand#160;and#160;and#160;
Ideas and Emotions
The End of a World?and#160;and#160;and#160;
On the Nation: The Universal and the Particularand#160;and#160;and#160;
The Socialist Movement, the Nation, and the Warand#160;and#160;and#160;
The Past and the Future of the Revolutionand#160;and#160;and#160;
The Historianand#8217;s Pursuitand#160;and#160;and#160;
The Seductions of Bolshevismand#160;and#160;and#160;
Critique of Totalitarianismand#160;and#160;and#160;
Learning from the Pastand#160;and#160;and#160;