Both these long books are fin de siècle summations of the related but certainly far from identical “socialist” ideologies, movements, and states that loomed so large in the embattled twentieth century. Since the late François Furet’s subject is the totalitarian Soviet version while Norman Birnbaum treats the reformist social democratic versions in the Western democracies, the authors, unsurprisingly, evaluate their subjects differently. Moreover, Birnbaum dislikes historians of onetime communist sympathizers in the West such as Furet, predictably dismissing them as likely to be “ex-Communists, engaged in compulsive efforts to expiate their earlier sins.” He mentions Furet’s book as “the best of the genre” but makes the baffling complaint that it is “the less complex and masterful, the more closer [sic] it comes to Stalinism itself’ (79). I am unable to figure out just what he means by this. Like so many French intellectuals at the time, Furet joined the French Communist Party in the immediate postwar years and left it in protest against the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956. My NYU colleague Tony Judt was never a communist, but Birnbaum mentions in a footnote to his critique Judt’s first-rate Past Imperfect, French Intellectuals, 1944-1956. At the time of Furet’s death in 1997, Judt wrote an eloquent obituary tribute to him in the New York Review of Books.