The Burden of Responsibility: Blum, Camus, Aron, and the French Twentieth Century

Tony Judt, Author University of Chicago Press $17.5 (204p) ISBN 978-0-226-41418-8
New York University European studies professor Judt (Past Imperfect: French Intellectuals 1944-1956) fashioned this book from three lectures he gave at the University of Chicago that presented an overview of some of the more complex political currents of modern France. He starts with a much vilified figure of the 1930s who is now largely ignored--the first Jewish (and Socialist) French premier, Leon Blum. Judt argues--not entirely convincingly--that Blum was more of a politician and less of an esthete than is generally thought. After Blum, Judt turns to a nemesis of the 1968 generation, the French conservative Raymond Aron. While Judt's discussion of individuals' changing fortunes provides an interesting view of the French intelligentsia, he overstates matters when he claims that Aron was universally accepted in France at the time of his death. In a somewhat less original contribution, Judt discusses the familiar figure of Albert Camus, apparently because he serves as a chronological link between the other two. Naturally, the brushstrokes are very broad in these brief studies, and many of Judt's assertions, particularly those that speculate about motive, are open to argument (Does anyone else think that Camus' journals are ""funny""?). Since full-length studies of Blum and Aron are still awaiting translation from the French, these opinionated lectures serve as a useful incentive to read further on their subjects. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 11/30/1998
Release date: 12/01/1998
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