am 5. September 1999
After reading Tony Judt's relentless ripping apart of Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and other post-war French intellectual fellow-travelers, one might be forgiven for wondering whether the author actually likes France. I am sure he does; it is just the unbelievable pig-headedness and irresponsibility of some of France's most acclaimed "thinkers" in the 1940s and 1950s that he cannot stand. The question that nags at the reader as he progresses through this book is: Just why did anyone take Sartre and co. seriously? Tony Judt not only has the answer, he issues a very pertinent warning about the current French fashion for deriding the intellectual perversions of the immediate post-war era. Putting it bluntly, a certain type of bone-headed universalism and a penchant for meaningless abstract riddles that seem peculiar to French intellectuals have by no means disappeared.