Date of this Version
Vidal-Naquet emerged in the 1980s as one of France's most prominent and effective debunkers of Robert Faurisson, Paul Rassinier, Arthur Butz, and other Holocaust deniers. This volume brings together five essays, ranging in length from four to sixty-five pages, originally published in France between 1981 and 1987. Mehlman's translation has preserved the rhetorical and moral force of Vidal-Naquet's writing. ... A chief goal of these essays is to analyze the cultural and ideological matrices that give rise to Holocaust denial. As a phenomenon of the extreme right it is not difficult to understand or to explain. In Europe denial serves the ends of "an extreme right wing that sees itself as heir to Nazism and dreams of its rehabilitation" (90), while in the United States it is an instrument of a peculiarly American neofascist synthesis. ... The most powerful, and arguably most deeply personal, essay focuses not on a Holocaust denier per se, but rather on the distinguished iconoclastic linguist Noam Chomsky, whom Vidal-Naquet depicts as a fellow traveler. ... The passionate engagement of these essays may say as much about the modalities of public intellectual life in France as they do about Holocaust denial. Readers interested primarily in the latter will find much that is useful for understanding the motives, arguments, and methods of deniers. But they may also find Vidal-Naquet's essays at times frustratingly unsystematic, polemical in style, and obscure. I would recommend that the unacquainted turn to Deborah Lipstadt's Denying the Holocaust, a systematic and up-to-date monograph, before taking on Vidal-Naquet.