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The Passing of an Illusion

The Idea of Communism in the Twentieth Century

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.

"This may well be the most illuminating study ever devoted to the question of appeal exerted not only by Communism but also by the Nazi and other fascist varieties of totalitarianism in this century."—Hilton Kramer, New Criterion

"A subtle, nuanced but gripping study of the most pervasive and destructive illusion in the 20th century." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"The Passing of an Illusion . . . is both a profound work of intellectual history that takes its place alongside other great studies of the leftist heresy . . . and a relentless diagnosis of the self-subversive risks that are inherent in democratic regimes. "—Roger Kaplan, Washington Times

" A remarkable book. . . . Stimulating and challenging. . . . A man widely read in several languages, Furet clearly knew his way around 20th-century Europe, even unto the dark alleys that figure on no existing map. "—Mark Falcoff, Commentary

"A history of ideas, this work is not for the faint of heart, yet those who challenge it will discover a signal contribution to the literature of Communism."—Booklist

"Imperious and stunningly confident, grand in conception and expansive in manner, packed with fascinating detail and often incisive judgements."—John Dunn, Times Higher Education Supplement

"The Passing of an Illusion is brilliant, and one would be hard pressed to find better writing of history than the first chapter, which traces the roots of modern political thinking back to the nineteenth century."—J. Arch Getty, Atlantic Monthly

"A brilliant and important book. . . . The publication of the American edition makes accessible to the general reader the most thought-provoking historical assessment of communism in Europe to appear since its collapse."—Jeffrey Herf, Wall Street Journal

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.

600 pages | 6 x 9 | © 1999

History: General History, History of Ideas

Table of Contents

1. The Revolutionary Passion
2. World War I
3. The Universal Spell of October
4. Believers and Unbelievers
5. Socialism in One Country
6. Communism and Fascism
7. Communism and Anti-Fascism
8. Anti-Fascist Culture
9. World War II
10. Communism at the End of World War II
11. Cold War Communism
12. The Beginning of the End


The University of Chicago Press: Gordon J. Laing Award

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