Adventures on the Freedom Road: The French Intellectuals in the 20th Century (1995)


From the days when Zola and Peguy brandished their pens in pursuit of political action, the question of Literature at the service of Political Commitment has remained a live issue, most of all in France. As this century saw the rise first of Communism, then of Fascism, French intellectuals have hurried to take sides and devote their writings to the good of their chosen Cause. If Breton and some of his fellow-Surrealists, as also Sartre and Aragon, favoured the Left, Bataille, Celine and Drieu La Rochelle were no less passionate advocates of the Far Right. There were also nice shadings of political casuistry as Red veered to Pink and eventually even to True Blue; Malraux was one of the great men to skate across the spectrum. In this book we shall witness many a sacred cow being led to the slaughter as we consider the impact on the French intelligentsia of the Bolshevik Revolution, the Third Reich, the Spanish Civil War, the Algerian War and other crucial turning points in this century, and the nation’s writers fashion a philosophy to match. To follow Bernard-Henri Levy, one of the high priests of the “new philosophers”, in his quest is an altogether stimulating exercise.

Translated by Richard Veasey  
Harvill Press Publishing
October 1995/433 pages (first published 1991)

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