An Impatient Life: A Memoir

“France’s leading Marxist public intellectual.” – Tariq Ali
A philosopher and activist, eager to live according to ideals forged in study and discussion, Daniel Bensaïd was a man deeply entrenched in both the French and the international left. Raised in a staunchly red neighbourhood of Toulouse, where his family owned a bistro, he grew to be France’s leading Marxist public intellectual, much in demand on talk shows and in the press. A lyrical essayist and powerful public speaker, at his best expounding large ideas to crowds of students and workers, he was a founder member of the Ligue Communiste and thrived at the heart of a resurgent far left in the 1960s, which nurtured many of the leading figures of today’s French establishment.

The path from the joyous explosion of May 1968, through the painful experience of defeat in Latin America and the world-shaking collapse of the USSR, to the neoliberal world of today, dominated as it is by global finance, is narrated in An Impatient Life with Bensaïd’s characteristic elegance of phrase and clarity of vision. His memoir relates a life of ideological and practical struggle, a never-resting endeavour to comprehend the workings of capitalism in the pursuit of revolution.


  • “France’s leading Marxist public intellectual.”
  • “Daniel’s death is like a wound, not a sadness. A loss which leaves us heavier. However, this weight is the opposite of a burden; it is a message composed, not with words, but with decisions and acts and injuries.”
  • “Daniel Bensaïd was my ‘distant companion’ ... With his disappearance, the intellectual, activist, political, and what we might call, even though the adjective is today obscure in meaning, ‘revolutionary’ world has changed.”
  • “This absorbing, affecting memoir is a beautiful testament to a richly productive and dignified life...this is an energising book, a book that reminds us of the rightness of refusing the inevitability of capitalism and war, of the promise of international solidarity and socialism, of our responsibility to all those who have made sacrifices in this struggle.”


  • From the archives of Atlantis: Ken Macleod reviews An Impatient Life

    To review the memoir of an activist who lived well to the left of official Communism is usually to begin with an apology for its subject's obscurity, and for the difficulty of explaining to the average reader the weight given in the text to storms in teacups and brawls in backstreets. All the more so when the activist concerned was a leading member of an organization usually (though in this case imprecisely) referred to as Trotskyist. 

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  • Testimony of a revolutionary: Daniel Bensaïd's An Impatient Life reviewed in Capital & Class

    John McIlroy has reviewed Daniel Bensaïd's An Impatient Life in October's Capital & Class, tracing Bensaïd's narration of the political landscape through which he lived; notably the turbulent events of 1968, and the defeats in Latin America, about which McIlroy is particularly effusive. He writes:

      'An Impatient Life mingles autobiography with meditations on politics, philosophy and history. The thematic thread is Bensaïd’s induction into ‘a hasty Leninism’ in the 1960s and 1970s, when ‘history was breathing down our necks’; and his incomplete apprenticeship in patience and a more measured, questioning, strategic approach. He writes evocatively of his origins and lifelong dedication to the oppressed, underlining how intellectual engagement is rooted in identity, emotion and morality:

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  • Marc Perelman interviews Daniel Bensaïd

    The final installment of our Daniel Bensaïd mini-series, this interview from September 2004, conducted by Outre-Terre's Marc Perelman, on the Israeli state, Trotskyist anti-zionism, the Fourth International, and the rise of anti-semitism in France:

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Other books by Daniel Bensaïd Translated by David Fernbach Foreword by Tariq Ali