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The God That Failed

Publisher: Columbia University Press • 1949 • 272 pages
4.57 out of 5 • View Ratings Details • 7 Ratings

Conceived “in the heat of argument” between Richard Crossman, a Labour intellectual and politician, and the leftist author Arthur Koestler, these essays by six intellectuals “describe the journey into communism, and the return.”

The only comparable books about the appeals and delusions of communism on idealists outside the Soviet Union are Raymond Aron’s Opium of the Intellectuals (1957) and Francois Furet’s more recent Le pass‚ d’une illusion (1995). But Aron is more didactic — superbly so — and Furet concentrates on the French case.

What makes The God That Failed so powerful is the ardent, bitter, irreplaceable testimony of men like Ignazio Silone, Stephen Spender, Koestler, and Richard Wright — men of very different backgrounds and experiences, all attracted by the “glimpse of the Promised Land” (Koestler), in search of a faith, indeed of “a conversion, a complete dedication” (Silone), of “a state of historical- materialist grace” (Spender).

How the dream of fraternity and social justice turns into a nightmare of servility to party double talk and sudden turns, how the fellow traveler drops out and has to return to his own lonely road, is a story that forms a sad, major part of twentieth -century life, in Western Europe and elsewhere.

Review in Foreign Affairs, by Stanley Hoffman

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