Public Enemies by Bernard-Henri Levy
Dueling Writers Take On Each Other and the World

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Synopsis

The international publishing sensation is now available in the United States—two brilliant, controversial authors confront each other and their enemies in an unforgettable exchange of letters.
 
In one corner, Bernard-Henri Lévy, creator of the classic Barbarism with a Human Face, dismissed by the media as a wealthy, self-promoting, arrogant do-gooder. In the other, Michel Houellebecq, bestselling author of The Elementary Particles, widely derided as a sex-obsessed racist and misogynist. What began as a secret correspondence between bitter enemies evolved into a remarkable joint personal meditation by France’s premier literary and political live wires.  An instant international bestseller, Public Enemies has now been translated into English for all lovers of superb insights, scandalous opinions, and iconoclastic ideas.

In wicked, wide-ranging, and freewheeling letters, the two self-described “whipping boys” debate whether they crave disgrace or secretly have an insane desire to please. Lévy extols heroism in the face of tyranny; Houellebecq sees himself as one who would “fight little and badly.” Lévy says “life does not ‘live’” unless he can write; Houellebecq bemoans work as leaving him in such “a state of nervous exhaustion that it takes several bottles of alcohol to get out.” There are also touching and intimate exchanges on the existence of God and about their own families.

Dazzling, delightful, and provocative, Public Enemies is a death match between literary lions, remarkable men who find common ground, confident that, in the end (as Lévy puts it), “it is we who will come out on top.”


From the Trade Paperback edition.
 

About Bernard-Henri Levy

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Bernard-Henri Lévy is a philosopher, journalist, activist, and filmmaker. He was hailed by Vanity Fair magazine as "Superman and prophet: we have no equivalent in the United States." Among his dozens of books are American Vertigo, Barbarism with a Human Face, Who Killed Daniel Pearl? and Left in Dark Times. His writing has appeared in a wide range of publications throughout Europe and the United States. His films include the documentaries Bosna! and A Day in the Death of Sarajevo. Lévy is co-founder of the antiracist group SOS Racism and has served on diplomatic missions for the French government. Michel Houellebecq has won the prestigious Prix Novembre in France as well as the lucrative International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. He lives in Ireland.
 
Published January 11, 2011 by Random House. 321 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction, Law & Philosophy, History. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Public Enemies

Kirkus Reviews

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A dialogue between two acclaimed French writers, originally published in France.

Dec 28 2010 | Read Full Review of Public Enemies: Dueling Write...

Publishers Weekly

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Two of France's most polarizing writers give free rein to their intellectual preoccupations, caprices—and egos—as they spar, in a fiery exchange of letters, over Judaism, morality, political commitmen

Nov 15 2010 | Read Full Review of Public Enemies: Dueling Write...

The New York Times

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... Book Review - Public Enemies - By Bernard-Henri Lévy and Michel ... There are
three possible approaches, dear Michel Houellebecq.

Jan 11 2011 | Read Full Review of Public Enemies: Dueling Write...

The New York Times

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On religion, BHL explains his “Judeo-Christian” hypothesis of “a soul made in the image of God.” To which Houellebecq replies that since BHL obviously believes in God, he, Houellebecq, “will probably look at you a little strangely” the next time they meet.

Jan 14 2011 | Read Full Review of Public Enemies: Dueling Write...

The New York Times

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Mr. Houellebecq writes very well about the things you’d suppose he’d write well about — his anger at anti-smoking campaigns, how his writing leaves him in “a state of nervous exhaustion that requires several bottles of alcohol to get out of.” But he has, it turns out, a sly and interest...

Jan 11 2011 | Read Full Review of Public Enemies: Dueling Write...

The Guardian

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During the second world war, Michel Houellebecq's father witnessed two French resistance fighters killing a Nazi officer in the Paris metro.

Dec 29 2011 | Read Full Review of Public Enemies: Dueling Write...

The Guardian

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In 2008, after what you imagine was a tired and emotional dinner, the novelist Michel Houellebecq and the philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy determined to start writing to each other about the things that kept them awake at nights.

Dec 08 2011 | Read Full Review of Public Enemies: Dueling Write...

The Washington Times

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America rarely makes big-time celebrities of its writers, doting on their every utterance, deed and sexual peccadillo. At least not like the French do. In 1885, 2 million admirers joined the funeral procession of the great poet and novelist Victor Hugo. It was one of the biggest Parisian events ...

Feb 11 2011 | Read Full Review of Public Enemies: Dueling Write...

Entertainment Weekly

Scorned by the French public and media, the two provocateurs decided to examine all that hatred with this epistolary collection, Public Enemies, in which they assault each other, the public, and, most often, themselves with an arsenal of bitterly sarcastic bons mots.

Jan 12 2011 | Read Full Review of Public Enemies: Dueling Write...

Book Forum

What we find are a few striking images (Henri-Lévy meeting with Louis Aragon, Houellebecq wandering the Irish countryside), some surprising bits of personal trivia (Houellebecq prefers to have sex half-asleep, Henri-Lévy calls his own phone every night and leaves himself a message about what he d...

Feb 11 2011 | Read Full Review of Public Enemies: Dueling Write...

Artswrap

Bestselling novelist Michel Houellebecq, and bestselling philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy ('BHL'), are two of the most celebrated and controversial intellectual figures in France today.

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