In the summer of 1996, François Furet wanted to publish his correspondence with the famous German historian Ernst Nolte in Commentaire. Its appearance in Italy sparked a debate that stirred as much interest in France as in Germany.
The debate arose out of a footnote in Furet's last book, Le Passé d'une illusion,1 devoted to the interpretation of fascism proposed by Nolte. In January 1996, Ferdinando Adornato, editor-in-chief of the journal Liberal in Rome, took the initiative of asking Nolte to respond to Furet's analysis. Nolte did so in the form of a letter to which Furet replied in turn. Eight letters were exchanged in this manner, and they comprise the current essay on the twentieth century, communism, and fascism.
In May 1997 François Furet obtained Ernst Nolte's permission to prepare a French edition. He made a final revision of his text, and during a trip to Aix Island, Napoleon's last stopping place in France, we agreed on the form this publication would take.
Then the terrible news arrived. François Furet had died in Toulouse on July 11, 1997.
Thus, it was after his death that this correspondence appeared in Commentaire (nos. 79 and 80, fall 1997 and