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The party’s over

Frederic Raphael considers 'Le passé d'une illusion'-François Furet's meditation on the bewitching influence Soviet Marxism had on so many French intellectuals. The British and others may have been less susceptible, but can the millennarian impulse ever be finally extinguished?

By Frederic Raphael   October 1995

Why should François Furet’s magnificent new book appear unimportant to English eyes? Le passé d’une illusion (Laffont, Calmann-Levy, 1995) made a great impact in France when it was published earlier this year, at roughly the same time as David Pryce-Jones’s The War That Never Was, a diligent and well-researched account of the implosion of the Soviet Union. By contrast, Furet’s 570-page essay deals not at all with recent politics or politicians. It is a rueful meditation on the claims of Marxism-and its supposed objective correlative, the Soviet Union-on the consciousness of those in the west, especially French intellectuals, who were…

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