Lies, Passions, and Illusions

The Democratic Imagination in the Twentieth Century

François Furet

François Furet

Translated by Deborah Furet
With Introductions by Deborah Furet and Christophe Prochasson
128 pages | 1 halftone | 5 x 7 | © 2014
Cloth $20.00 ISBN: 9780226114491 Will Publish September 2014
E-book $18.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226157306 Published September 2014
François 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, the New York Review of Books called him “one of the most influential men in contemporary France.” Lies, Passions, and Illusions is a fitting capstone to this celebrated author’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, Furet’s last—he died while Ricoeur was completing his edits. Ricoeur did not want to publish his half without Furet’s approval, so what remains is Furet’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 thinkers—from Tocqueville to Hannah Arendt—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. 
 
 
Spectacle du monde, on the French edition
“An intellectual and political testament.”
Influences, on the French edition
“A ghost talks to us of other ghosts, and all of it seems only too present, and even prophetic.”
Jeffrey C. Herf, author of Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World
“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 Furet’s part of those conversations with all of the eloquence, clarity, subtlety—and a quiet but insistent courage—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 Europe’s twentieth century was one of too many catastrophes, offers important insights as to why that is the case.”
Keith Michael Baker, author of Inventing the French Revolution
“These are lucid, searching reflections on the political passions that consumed the last century and continue to haunt our own. They offer an ideal introduction to the thinking of one of the most perceptive and philosophical of modern historians and a powerful demonstration of the need for historical self-understanding in a democratic society.”
Contents

Translator’s Note   
Introduction: François Furet and Paul Ricoeur:
A Dialogue Interrupted Christophe Prochasson   
 
Ideas and Emotions
The End of a World?   
On the Nation: The Universal and the Particular   
The Socialist Movement, the Nation, and the War   
The Past and the Future of the Revolution   
The Historian’s Pursuit   
The Seductions of Bolshevism   
Critique of Totalitarianism   
Learning from the Past   

 
Notes

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