Forty Years in thenAmericannWildernessnby Chilton Williamson, Jr.nConfessions of annOriginal Sinnernby John LukacsnNew York: Ticknor & Fields;n328 pp., $19.95nIt is probably fair to say that JohnnLukacs, the Hungarian-Americannhistorian and historical philosopher, authornof 13 books, remains after morenthan forty years an enigma to Americannhistorians in particular and to Americannpolitical intellectuals in general. Thenhistorical profession, which persists innrefusing to accept him fully into thensodality, has been joined in its dismissivenattitude by political writers and architectsnof the left and right, on both ofnwhich he remains widely distrusted.nConfessions of an Original Sinner —ncalled “Confessions of a Reactionary”nin working ms., before the publishersnobjected to so provocative a title — isnMr. Lukacs’ “autohistory,” or “historynof some of my thoughts and beliefs.”n”Because of the goodness of God,” henwrites, “I have had a happy unhappynlife, which is preferable to an unhappynhappy one.” Confessions is pervadednby a bittersweet quality of lonelinessnand of intellectual isolation, thoughnnever to the point of self-pity, JohnnLukacs being far too self-aware a mannfor that sort of indulgence. Unwrappingnhimself by degrees from the enigmanwith which enemies and detractorsnhave surrounded him, he reveals himselfnto be a profoundly human (as wellnas a humanly profound) man: then”unoriginal Original Sinner” of thisnvery moving book.nJohn Lukacs was born in 1924 innHungary and lived there until 1946nwhen, after being smuggled across thenAustrian border with help from thenAmericans, he arrived in the UnitednStates, whose government accordedn38/CHRONICLESnREVIEWSnhim the status of Displaced Person.nSeven years later he took the oath ofncitizenship in the Federal Building innPhiladelphia, forty miles east of thentown of Phoenixville where he hasnlived and worked now for nearly fourndecades.nLukacs is the son of a Jewish mothernand a Catholic father, baptized into thenchurch, and raised in the home of hisnmother and stepfather after his parentsnwere divorced when he was eight yearsnold. He had a careful and cosmopolitannupbringing by his solid bourgeois family,nwho saw to it that he learnednEnglish at an early age and sent himnto school in England, from which henreturned just before the outbreak ofnwar. With his mother and a dozennrelatives and friends, Lukacs spent thenwinter of 1944-45 in a cellar in Budapest:na deserter, carrying false militarynidentity papers, liable to be shot ornhanged at an instant’s notice by thenNational Socialists or by the field gendarmerienif his situation were discovered.nHe was waiting, like so manynother Hungarians, for the Russians,nwho progressed however very slowlynand waited to besiege the city until theynhad surrounded it entirely, which theyndid only just before Christmas. Subsequentnevents in Hungary helped tondetermine not only the shape of 20thcenturynhistory after 1945 but thenunderstanding of that history by thenyoung man who was to become hisngeneration’s most original, penetrating,nand farsighted interpreter of it.nParadoxically, John Lukacs —whonhas gained a reputation among Americannconservatives as a man insufficientlynimpressed by what was known in thenlate 40’s, the 50’s, and the early 60’s asnthe Communist Menace — was nevernamong those Hungarians who thoughtnthat, for better or for worse, Marxist-Leninistnideology represented ThenFuture. At an early age, he becamenconvinced that Marxism was a relic ofnponderous 19th-century thought,ncompletely irrelevant to the ideas andnaspirations of the commonality of mannowing to its reliance on a total misap­nnnprehension of human nature. This didnnot mean that the fact of Soviet militarynand political power in portions ofnEurope was not a foreseeable reality fornsome years to come. On the othernhand, that reality needed not, innLukacs’ opinion, to entail the acceptedndivision of the European states betweennEast and West, while, as mattersnstood, “The commitment to the defensenof Western Europe meant thatnthere would be no commitments regardingnEastern Europe, even thoughnthe latter condition was obscured by allnkinds of rhetoric.” Several years beforenit became fashionable — indeed de rigueur—innthe United States to benanticommunist, when the Americannpress and the American Department ofnState still gave thanks for the continuednpresence of their affable old ally, UnclenJoe Stalin, in the Kremlin, JohnnLukacs was already a convinced anticommunist.nLater — in the 50’s, duringnthe McCarthy period, and later stillnin the 1980’s, with Reagan’s rhetoricalnflourishes against the Evil Empire —nLukacs came to think of himself as annanti-anticommunist, though not of thenstereotypical variety. Unlike WhittakernChambers, Lukacs did not doubt thatnhis was the winning side; unlike Chambersntoo, he was appalled by what henregarded as the spectacle of Americansnturning themselves into lunatics inntheir frantic attempts to ensure that thencause of World Freedom should prevail.n”The American anti-communismnof the Fifties was abstract, extreme,nself-serving, and false,” he concludesntoday. “It was abstract, because thenattribution of every kind of evil andnimmorality to Communists was notnonly unhistorical but utterly unreal.”nWhile John Lukacs’ work was earningnhim disfavor, suspicion, and enmitynon the right, it was also creating disdainnon the left — the academic left in particular.nFrom early manhood, Lukacsnhad dreamed of writing a new kind ofnhistory, one that would emphasize hownpeople at any given period had thoughtnabout events, as well as what: a kind ofnhistory that would stress what he callsn