Demolishing TaboosnMaurice Clavel: Ce que je crois;nAndre Glucksmann: Les mattres—npenseurs; Bernard-Henri Levy: Lanbarbarie a visage humain.nby Thomas MolnarnrVs everybody knows by now, thennouveaux philosophes in Paris may benthe factor blocking communist/socialistnvictory at the polls, come March. Theirncase is the latest in the series of intellectualnconversions away from Marxismnto… one-does-not-quite-yet-know-what,nbut at any rate a more decent form ofnthinking. At first, to Americans at least,nit may seem incongruous and disproportionatento claim that a few theoreticalnwritings by mostly young professors couldnbe an obstacle to a political victory bynthe Left. But literature, philosophy andnpolitics are so intertwined in France thatna) intellectual products may indeed setnthe tone in national affairs, and b) afternthe public acclaim that these booksnreceived, the moderate leftists may notnwant to lose respectability by voting withnknown agents of the gulag.nThis penetration of “metapolitics” intonpractical politics is perhaps a bad thingnper se, and among other things it contradictsnthe sacred cows both of democracynand pragmatism; but the event—thenpublication of a few books by self-criticalnand repentant leftists—is at least able tonstir the intellectual community from itsnicebound marxo-utopian convictions,nsomething we have not witnessed on thenAmerican scene since the days of LouisnBudenz and Whittaker Chambers. Evennthen, the phenomenon was isolated andnthe culprits were duly excluded from thenranks of “decent” and “thinking” men.nDr. Molnar, a philosopher and literaryncritic, teaches World Literature atnBrooklyn College and European IntellectualnHistory at Long Island University,nWhat happened a few years ago tonSolzhenitsyn is now happening to thennouveaux philosophes: assimilation andndigestion by Publicity. There is hardly anliterary critic, book reviewer, aspiringnmarxist student, big or small magazine,nthat has not provided a didactic analysisnof “Paris’s latest craze;” after the longndominance of existentialism, structuralism,neuro-communism, it is the “newnphilosophy” that is making the graduatenstudents’ mouths water. Here is, by thengrace of the Left Bank, a new andninfinitely flexible dissertation topic fornthe next few years. (Dissertation writersnmust shudder at the thought that oncenupon a time—for thirty long years!—onlynone style of writing and style of thought,nclassicism, prevailed in France betweenn1660 and 1690.)nLet me try briefly to rid the nouveauxnphilosophes of some cliches that inevitablynaccumulate on their fresh celebrity—andnof some misplaced aura too. Mostnof them were Maoist in 1968, theirnschoolmates now say they were thencraziest of the radical bunch. Then theynmade two encounters, both, althoughnunequally, decisive. The first wasnMaurice Clavel, now classified as anmentor of the group, older than they,nalso a professor of philosophy and thennumber one television attraction onnFrance’s numerous PBS channels. Thensecond was Solzhenitsyn.nClavel attracted them as the man whondemonstrated the joint and interdependentnbankruptcy of humanism, academicnrationalism, and religion withoutnGod. He has also argued that thensignificance of 1968 was not the revoltnagainst the consumer society, but againstnthe liberal, enlightened cul-de-sac intonwhich for decades have marched atheistsnand bishops, conservatives and socialists,nleaders of industry and of marxist parties.nAs for Solzhenitsyn, his impact wasnnothing less than stunning; Bernard-nHenri Levy calls him the “Shakespearenof our time” who shows us monsters andnnncompels us to look them in the face. In an. similar vein, Andre Glucksmann writesnthat the Gulag is “Macbeth plus ideology.”nThey compare Solzhenitsyn also tonDante, topographer of hell. WithoutnSolzhenitsyn to back up his figures, couldnClavel credibly write that in a “good”nyear the Inquisition produced 120 deadnover against the Gulag’s three million innthirty years.^nUnder Solzhenitsyn’s and Clavel’sncombined influence the young philosophersnwere able to break through thenbarrier of taboos and the mythe de langauche. They began tearing at the rootsnof the Gulag, then Lenin, then Marx,nbut only to indict the “master thinkers”nin general, from Descartes to the Sorbonnenbig wigs. Clavel speaks of thenUniversity’s holy trinity: Marx, Freud,nNietzsche. Glucksmann’s verdict is morensweeping, he focuses not on 1968 butnon an earlier date, 1789, and finds thenmonstrous sisterhood of History, on thenside of the Rhine (France) and ofnPhilosophy, on the German side.nRobespierre, Marat, St. Just, Couthonnacting out the dreams of Fichte, Hegel,nKant. (One is reminded of Heine reassuringnhis French friends: “We innGermany are smarter than you, wenenlisted God in the battle for atheism.”)nClavel had an easy time coining strikingnformulas: What has the culture ofnthe last two centuries been if not an anti-nGod coalition—while Levy spoke of “KarlnKapital” and of “Marx-la-Terreur,” a kindnof underworld thug. Universal blasphemy!nFormulas that kill more effectivelynthan even ridicule! Clavel neverthelessnwarns: If we allow the marxistndoctrine to survive with the reputationnof a critical instrument par excellence,nin no time Marx will again be veneratednas the liberator—this time from thenchains of the Gulag!nX hese few fragments from the leadingnnouveaux philosophes enable us ton11nChronicles of Culturen