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Public Enemies: Dueling Writers Take On Each Other and the World

3.38 of 5 stars 3.38  ·  rating details  ·  437 ratings  ·  56 reviews
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 Ho
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 11th 2011 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2008)
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Which is the greater art form, poetry or the novel? Poetry promises greater emotional rewards but is so aloof with its heart, so imposing with its past love life, that most readers would prefer the safer communicability of the novel, that place where people tend to tell you exactly how they feel. Poetry looks like an object of pity, with no one talking to her (especially when she tells you exactly how she feels), looking so isolated and alone in the corner that most readers assume she somehow de ...more
Aug 09, 2011 Simon marked it as kill-me-if-i-ever-think-of-reading
OK, I had to start this new bookshelf just to put this book into it. Seriously, kill me if I ever think of reading this.
Pędzi jak odrzutowiec i czyta się to fenomenalnie. A po ostatniej stronie pozostaje tylko pustka i baba w tramwaju, której "artur ma jak najszybciej naprawić komputer bo nie gra muzyka".
"Siamo un incontro di identità molteplici, spezzate, contraddittorie, in lotta le une con le altre, in pace, di nuovo in lotta. Non siamo un soggeto, siamo una voliera."

Dai dialoghi di platoniana memoria ai carteggi intellettualistici dell'età contemporanea, disparati sono i motivi, i temi e le suggestioni che nel corso del tempo hanno avviato scambi e confronti dialettici: ed ecco che piomba sulla Francia contemporanea, a ridare vigore, forse, a un confronto culturale che si è ridotto a una mon
Willy Schuyesmans
Michel Houellebecq en Bernard-Henry Lévy: twee verguisde Franse schrijvers, veracht en uitgespuwd door de goegemeente, maar tegelijkertijd onweerstaanbaar. Alles bij elkaar hebben ze weinig gemeen, of althans dat denken ze. Van wie het idee komt, is niet helemaal duidelijk, maar op een dag ontmoeten ze elkaar en besluiten een correspondentie te starten. Geen snelle mails, nee, goede ouderwetse brieven waaraan gewerkt is, op gewroet, over nagedacht. In het begin proberen ze elkaar nog onderuit te ...more
You might be forgiven for snickering at the title of “Public Enemies,” Michel Houllebecq’s and Bernard-Henri Levy’s collection of email correspondence, before even cracking the cover. Far from a threat to the Republic, these two writers are card-carrying members of the Apollonian French literary/philosophical establishment. Any countercultural postures from these public intellectuals, in a country where the role carries real gravity, are bound to be at least a partial masquerade.

Levy, in particu
I was interested in this book because I am a fan of Michel Houellebecq's novels and do not have much love for Bernard-Henri Levi. I knew that this was a series of open letters that the two authors penned to each other. As the title suggests, I expected it to be fairly contentious and I hoped that Houellbecq would win. What I got was something else entirely. Slow at first, the book developed and actually became a page turner as I couldn't wait to see each response. While much of the time it seems ...more
Een briefwisseling tussen Lévy, Frankrijks bekendste voorvechter van de mensenrechten en de provocateur onder de Franse schrijvers, Houellebecq. Je moet het inderdaad maar durven. Op de eerste pagina benoemt Houellebecq zowel zichzelf als Lévy "verachtelijke individuen" en daarmee is de toon gezet. Natuurlijk schrijft Houellebecq dit om aan te duiden dat de mening over de twee schrijvers in het algemeen erg negatief is. Houellebecq spreekt deze meningen niet tegen, maar doet dus iets wat men nie ...more
Procyon Lotor
Peep Show Una corrispondenza necessita di riservatezza, un argomento di condivisibilit delle premesse, un dibattito dell'oggetto, un compromesso della contendibilit e della divisibilit dell'oggetto conteso, una unione di comunicazione, un vasto interesse di una genericit. Per cui, il successo di libro su una corrispondenza nata, forse, intuitu publico su argomenti controversi, di poco o punto interesse generale, di due persone non propriamente percepite come maestri, le cui posizioni sono freque ...more
Evan Rocher
A bit of background to start: Houellebecq and Henri-Levy are public enemies not because they're radicals. Both are common characters on the French intellectual scene. Rather, they're public enemies because there's an almost universal contempt for both of them: Houellebecq is seen as a shitty writer, an Islamophobe, a pervert. Levy is a champagne socialist, advocating a hard-left sort of politics while taking the private jet he rides (courtesy of his father's lumber business) from conflict to con ...more
Try to put aside all the extra-literary tittle-tattle surrounding Houellebecq and BHL, and just enjoy this one for what it is: a couple of super-smart, hyper-articulate guys talkin' about stuff. To that extent, it's really good. 3.5 stars, as the neurotic sticklers say.
Well, I've had to revise my opinion of Houellebecq. This is a splendid book full of stimulating ideas and interesting perspectives.

The blurb for the Atlantic Books edition of Public Enemies describes this book as a ferocious exchange of letters by two of the most celebrated of French intellectuals but it seems a calm and courteous debate to me. I am undecided as to whether I have formed this impression because the publicists have tried to create conflict as a marketing strategy or because I am
Lauren Albert
I really don’t know what to make of this book. As another reviewer said, there really should have been an introduction to put the dialogue in context. I started out just finding it annoying—it seemed to be over-abstract and I couldn’t help feeling like they were looking at the camera—so to speak—rather than at each other. But the book, and they, started to grow on me towards the end. I felt especially sympathetic when Levy was expressing his own sympathy for Houellebecq when his vile mother—who ...more
I've seen Bernard-Henri Lévy speaking on TV for years, so when I heard about this book, I thought it would be a lot of fun. A debate between two diametrically opposed French philosophers. How could it be anything but. I must admit that I am by no means a philosopher and have never been a fan of reading philosophy, but I did enjoy this book.

There are times when both Lévy and Houellebecq got off on a train of thought, exploring it and arguing it for the sake of polemics rather than conviction. And
Прекрасное, просто прекрасное чтение.
Сначала каждый встает в позу. Как ему кажется, удобную, чтобы выебать другого. Но они так неизменно вежливо друг к другу пристраиваются, подметая перьями пол и расшаркиваясь. Напоминает переписку какого-нибудь 18-го века, не знаю, Руссо с Вольтером. Вольтера с Руссо, как выясняется ближе к середине. Там вообще все самое интересное начинается странице на 200-й. Когда у Леви случается припадок искренности и он вываливает все эти свои мистические сионистские шту
Carlos Mestre
Was wondering between giving this book 1 or 2 stars.

The book is a collection of e-mails between Houellebecq and Levy. I bought it because I've been enjoying a few of Houellebecq works, and was interested a bit of an political, cultural analysis of France, and our western society.

The book is sell as a disagreement of both "players", a clearly contrast of opinions, really far from reality, they have opposed views regardless some topics, mostly philanthropy, pessimism and spirituality, but spend
This is a book of correspondence. It is definitely not bad. But it is definitely not good. The authors are so damn self-important! But, perhaps if I become relevant one day, I too will be self-important...

What it comes down to is that I may well have been wanting more than one should when reading correspondence, though that doesn't make me any less (however slightly) disappointed.

The best thing about this book is the wealth of references to other things that I want to read, forgot that I wanted
A very enjoyable book to read on the bus, but then again Michel Houellebecq and Bernard-Henri Lévy are not real heavy weights in the world of letters to me at least. We're not talking Sartre meets Foucault - it is more of a showbiz version of French intellectuals.

What these two do is moan about their public identity, and their importance to culture. Which may be true (and I am a fan of Houellebecq) but it is almost like a Saturday Night Live skit. They're hysterical but I don't think they mean i
Ennemis Publics ma pris plus que 4 mois á terminer faute de bien comprendre tout, car le livre est assez exigeant.

Les remarques de Houllebecq sont plus marrantes que celles de BHL, sauf quelques remarques sur lamertume ou la déception:

"Entre celui qui vit dans le ressentiment, intoxiqué par lesprit de rancune, aliéné á sa mélancolie et á son mauvais sang et celui qui, pas tellement par vertu, mais par complexion, ou par auto-dressage, ou parce quil a juste mieux á faire (par example un nouveau
Usually letters between famous people are published posthumously. The fact these are out a year later is simply how things work now I suppose. I wonder if these were handwritten letters or e-mails actually. The very act of writing traditional letters is a self-conscious throwback but then again so is this whole interchange--very deliberately so.

Im a fanatic for Houellebecq's style and attitude so I lapped up the early sections: "We have contributed nothing to France's electropop revival. We wer
Sveučilišna Knjižnica Rijeka
Državni neprijatelji knjiga je pisama što su ih dvije zvijezde francuskog kulturnog života “pisac provokator” MICHEL HOUELLEBECQ i “medijski flozof” BERNARD-HENRI LÉVY razmjenjivali od siječnja do lipnja 2008.

Na prvi pogled sve ih razdvaja: BHL je filozof u bijeloj košulji, bogataško dijete, angažirani branitelj ljudskih prava, dok je Houellebecq proleterskih korijena, nihilist i depresivac. Međutim njihovo dopisivanje nalik je strastvenom razgovoru dvojice erudita koji raspravljaju o flozofji,
Benjamin Montero
Dope, read michel's atomized (uk title) years ago and didn't enjoy. But now will read michel's whatever and bernard's left in dark times. I like them both (michel a little more:) and really enjoyed the book.
I found it incredibly difficult to care about anything that Bernard-Henri had to say. He has an incredibly sharp mind, but his curiousity flounders in self-importance. Maybe his incessant name-dropping is some kind of inside joke, but I found him otherwise to be completely without humour, and worse yet, dull.

Michel Houellebecq, on the other hand, is honest, insightful, and entertaining. Granted, I don't read French tabloids, so half the controversy went over my head. But I appreciated that his
Libro discreto. Ho preferito le lettere di Houellebecq a quelle di BHL. Proprio per come sono scritte. BHL non male anzi, ma Houllebecq ha qualcosa in pi.
Frank O'connor
This is a book about the tensions between honesty, truth and fame. It is also a firework display of insight. Unfortunately the publishers believe that presenting the dialogue as a fight might make it more interesting to readers. There is no fight here. There is a cordial exchange of ideas. BHL and MH reveal a lot about themselves and this might satisfy their admirers or detractors, but they also discuss literature, philosophy, fame, writing, cinema, life, death - the whole panoply - and they do ...more
Frank O'connor
Apr 01, 2012 Frank O'connor rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: writers, philosophers
This is a book about the tensions between honesty, truth and fame. It is also a firework display of insight. Unfortunately the publishers believe that presenting the dialogue as a fight might make it more interesting to readers. There is no fight here. There is a cordial exchange of ideas. BHL and MH reveal a lot about themselves and this might satisfy their admirers or detractors, but they also discuss literature, philosophy, fame, writing, cinema, life, death - the whole panoply - and they do ...more
Michael Mckenna
Opening with an attack and segueing quickly into a sort of tennis game of autobiography and philosophy, "Public Enemies" is somehow greater than the sum of its parts. At root, it's an terrifically and unfailingly French dialogue between ego and diffidence that turns over a great deal of soil before its abrupt conclusion, and it is suffused with an enormous mutual sympathy that the title fails to imply. Readers who arrive at this book with a great affection for either one or both of the authors w ...more
Michel Van Goethem
Michel Houellebecq - Bernard-Henry Lévy
Tjibbe Wubbels
A great conversation between Houellebecq and Lévy that covers everything from the pleasures and misfortunes of being a public figure, memories from their youth, literary preferences and philosophical influences. The form, an exchange of letters, makes for an easy read. Insulting each other in a subtle and sophisticated manner keeps the book light and entertaining. Finally, the fact that they find out that they have more in common than they first thought and a friendship seems to form makes you w ...more
The opening to this book is very promising and sets the reader up for some very interesting discussion. The book does not deliver on its early promise, but meanders through a range of topics instead. Like other readers I too am more familiar with H than L, and therefore enjoyed H's writing more overall. I would love to see more books in this style, perhaps with more structure to topics, but all conversations wander, don't they?

Entertaining, funny, and a little thought provoking too. I enjoyed th
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Michel Houellebecq (born Michel Thomas), born 26 February 1958 (birth certificate) or 1956 on the French island of Réunion, is a controversial and award-winning French novelist. To admirers he is a writer in the tradition of literary provocation that reaches back to the Marquis de Sade and Baudelaire; to detractors he is a peddler of sleaze and shock. Having written poetry and a biography of the h ...more
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