The nineteenth century was imbued, among other things, with the thorny legacy of the French Revolution: a legacy of liberty and repression, equality and abuse, brotherhood and violence. Yet revolutions live on through the lives of those who survive them: "drowned" or "saved", according to the circumstances (to cite Primo Levi). And so the Jacobins cast their long shadows - shadows coloured red by sweat, shame, and blood - over the landscape of the Restoration and the 1848 revolts. Old men met with and clashed with young, with sons who had become adults judging their fathers' actions: acknowledging their heroism or condemning them as murderers. And if these young men were named Honor de Balzac or Victor Hugo, then their attempts at settling accounts with the past became literary masterpieces such as "Pre Goriot" or "Les Misrables". The French Revolution penetrated the nineteenth century so thoroughly that in order to write its history a historian needs more than the traditional tools of the trade (parliamentary archives, police files, contemporary newspapers); here Sergio Luzzatto has also drawn information from other sources - novels, tales, memoirs, diaries, letters, caricatures, engravings - in order to recount the odyssey of an interminable revolution.
Sergio Luzzatto teaches Modern History at the University of Turin.