Past Imperfect: French Intellectuals, 1944-1956

In This Review

Past Imperfect: French Intellectuals, 1944-1956

By Tony Judt
University of California Press, 1992
358 pp. $30.00
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A brilliant, relentless analysis (and indictment) of the prevailing mode of French writers who in the years after the war, and partly because of it, embraced a pro-communist faith and were committed to supporting the communist cause or to "explaining" the horrors they could no longer deny. They also propagated chic anti-Americanism. Judt focuses on the political writings of Sartre and the Catholic Emmanuel Mounier as well as less well-known writers. The great exceptions to this willed blindness were Raymond Aron, François Mauriac, and Albert Camus. Judt, a prolific historian, may slightly exaggerate the influence of some of his culprits in this splendidly written "essay on intellectual irresponsibility," which is also a major contribution to our understanding of the immediate postwar period.