In This Review

Farewell, Revolution: Disputed Legacies, France, 1789/1989
Farewell, Revolution: Disputed Legacies, France, 1789/1989
By Steven Laurence Kaplan
Cornell University Press, 1995, 573 pp.

Originally published in France, this book by a historian of that country's eighteenth century is a highly entertaining, exhaustive (but not exhausting) account of the politics and theater of the commemoration in 1989 of the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution. Staged by a socialist regime, the event tried to find a middle course between uncritical celebration and the newly fashionable debunking of the French Revolution, by a coalition of counter-revolutionaries and (often ex-communist) neoconservatives, as a forerunner of totalitarianism. The book is both a brilliant description of the show put on by Jean-Paul Goude, "designer-artist-adman," and a critique of the prevailing tendency to reduce the revolution to its ideological dimensions and deviations.