Public Enemies

Public Enemies

Dueling Writers Take on Each Other and the World

eBook - 2011
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What begins as an exchange between bitter enemies evolves into a joint personal meditation among France's premier literary and philosophical live wires on their lives, their writing, and what it means to think.
Publisher: New York : Random House Trade Paperbacks, c2011
ISBN: 9781588369192
1588369196
Branch Call Number: Overdrive eBook
Characteristics: 1 online resource (273 p.)

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dennismmiller
Nov 25, 2017

This book is the product of a half-year correspondence between two of France's most talked-about contemporary writers. One is Bernard-Henry Levy, the politically engaged Jewish public intellectual and journalist, author of Barbarism with a Human Face and Left in Dark Times. The other is Michel Houellebecq, the self-described "absolute atheist" (disdaining both religious and political faiths), author of The Elementary Particles and Submission. The former travels all over the world chronicling injustice, the latter lives as a tax exile in the Irish countryside.

In one memorable passage, Houellebecq compares their dialogue to miners working parallel shafts, each hearing the other digging and searching for the breakthroughs that will bring them together. Levy describes it, in turn, as a correspondence in search of correspondences. These seem to come, when they come, in two basic forms: the first is the common experience of living as celbrities in a hostile media environment, while the second is the French literary culture they both share. If the first is the major theme of the book, the second is the most interesting, for an Anglophone reader especially. Both correspondents write engagingly, if not always candidly, their apparent sympathy with one another (not untainted by a certain amount of narcissism) underlining the irony of the title.

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