Bernard-Henri Lévy on His Recent Work
Bernard-Henri Lévy is a French philosopher and the author of over 30 books, including works of philosophy, fiction, and biography. He began his career as a war reporter for Combat - the legendary newspaper founded by Albert Camus during the Nazi occupation of France - for which he covered the war between Pakistan and India over Bangladesh, and gained international renowned in 1994 for his documentary, Bosnia! Lévy is also the founder of the New Philosophers group. His 1977 book Barbarism with a Human Face launched an unprecedented controversy over the European left's complicity with totalitarianism. Lévy's cultural commentary, novels and journalism have continued to stir up such excitement that The Guardian noted he is "accorded the kind of adulation in France that most countries reserve for their rock stars."
Question: What is the premise of your book “Public Enemies.”
Bernard-Henri Levy: Oh, very hard to say what it is about. It’s literature. Can you sum up literature? Right? A little hard. No, it is a book which is released today in France. You are well informed, I see. It is not my book. It’s a common book between myself and my fellow French writer Michel Houellebecq. Michel Houellebecq. It is a correspondence. We exchanged letters for 6 or 7 months, [light] letters, speaking of ourselves, speaking of America, speaking of philosophy, speaking of literature, speaking of Russia. Houellebecq has a real feeling for Russia and I have maybe a feeling for the Russian people but I do believe that Putin and the [old] system is properly [disgusting]. We talked about that too. We speak about Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, [Hagger] and so on. It’s a correspondence between 2 writers. It might not have been published. It seemed like it is published. A publisher found it worth being published and that is, it’s a correspondence, literary correspondence.
Question: What is the premise of your book “Left In Dark Times”?
Bernard-Henri Levy: The title has two meanings: left in dark times, abandoned in dark times, [IB] situation in which you Americans, us French, all of us are today. We’re really abandoned, dropped flat in dark times, economically, financially, morally, philosophically. This is one of the subject of the book, even if I did not predict of course the financial catastrophe, but it was in the air of the book also, and it means the [circumventing] is the left opposed to the right, the left wing in dark times, and, in this sense, it is a book by a liberal, by a leftist, who I am since my first age, about the disease, the worst temptations of the left. There is a real moral courage inside the thought of the left, which the leftist I am tries to identify, to denounce and to alert. That is the circumstance of the book.
Question: Can you recall a time when you completely reversed your opinion on a major issue?
Bernard Henri-Levy: Yes. And this, I speak about that in my book, in this book with Michel, Michel Houellebecq, who is, by the way, probably the writer, one of the writers, maybe the writer for whom I have the biggest respect in France. That’s why we did that, I did that… As for myself. And there is a moment in the book where I tell him… I answer to this question. The moment was the publication of Archipelago of Gulag of Solshenitsyn. There was a whole body of thoughts, a whole body of creeds, a whole body of illusions which were like a cement, like a concrete in my brain, in my mind, which broke because of a book, because of the book of Solshenitsyn. This was really… Again, if I had to quote one example, the first to come is this one.
Bernard-Henri Lévy on what has shaped his philosophy and what it means to be liberal.
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