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Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism
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Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism

3.28  ·  Rating Details  ·  127 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
In this unprecedented critique, Bernard-Henri Lévy revisits his political roots, scrutinizes the totalitarianisms of the past as well as those on the horizon, and argues powerfully for a new political and moral vision for our times. Are human rights Western or universal? Does anti-Semitism have a future, and, if so, what will it look like? And how is it that progressives t ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published October 3rd 2007)
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Sep 23, 2010 Buck rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Three Days of the Condor, John Houseman's old CIA dude is asked if he ever misses the kind of action he saw during WWII. “No,” he says wearily, “I miss that kind of clarity.” Then he goes back to trying to kill Robert Redford.

There seems to be a lot of nostalgia for clarity around these days, and it’s not just confined to the hawkish liberal crowd that Bernard-Henri Lévy runs with. I’m all for clarity, I guess, but certainty—moral certainty—creeps me out. Maybe because I have so little of it
this is the first time i’ve read something by BHL that i’ve found compelling and absorbing. now, don’t get me wrong -- he’s still a bloviating windbag and it’s really the latter half that earns my praise -- but this is a damn worthwhile book. much as paul berman did in Power and the Idealists, BHL traces the history of the european left and proceeds to excoriate them for their present state…

BHL feels that it is a better world now that the question amongst the left, as posed by foucault, has cha
that cute little red-eyed kitten
Whoah. No page-turner, this. Rather heavy, with historical, political and philosophical references scattered over each paragraph, making it difficult to get through for anyone who's not intimate with Derrida, Camus, Fanon, Kant, Pol Pot, the Mufti of Jerusalem, al-Banna, Finkielkraut, Focault, Spengler, Marx, Sartre... And so on and on, in no particular order.

But. That doesn't mean there's nothing of value in here. Levy might be name-dropping (Dutschke, Baader-Meinhof, Blum...), but he knows wh
May 08, 2011 Tyler rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
I'm thrilled by this author's response to the Arab Spring and wanted to find out more about his political philosophy. But while he makes some intriguing points in this book, his thesis is too poorly argued to count as philosophical.

Levy wants to remain a leftist and wants the left to reform itself. But he attacks strawmen to make his points, then glosses over neoliberalism. What I couldn't understand was why he even wanted to be called a leftist anymore, and his explanation for that was drivel.
I decided to check Levy out after seeing him on Fareed Zakaria GPS. I'm not sure that this book was the best choice for a first-read. Some chapters are lucid enough, but others leave me thinking "WTF is he talking about?" The problem is that Levy writes in long, complicated sentences. To excess. There are so many extraneous and tangential phrases, it's difficult to follow the actual subject and verb.


The over all effect to me is good chapter/bad chapter
Manuel J.
Aug 29, 2014 Manuel J. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book to force people to think, to question one's beliefs. Lévy makes you travel with him in a realm of ideas that are too lightly taken for granted. I do not think Lévy wrote the book for the Left leaning people: in fact, it would be a diminished book if that was true. It is for every human being, a manifesto of what humanity is about, about my humanity and about the others'; about the way I think influences the way I relate to others.
In a sense, Lévy describes a way to the earthly par
Iľja Rákoš
Nov 28, 2014 Iľja Rákoš rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Levy writes: "...this is a critique of those who, inspired by the desire to create a heaven on earth, were--and are, more than ever--led to a flirtation with darkness, barbarism, and hell."

In a complex yet compelling argument, Bernard-Henry Levy insists that progressive thinkers burdened with the task of defining the public discourse have abandoned their true calling - the pursuit of social justice - to go mucking around in the more tempting, indeed, lucrative pastures, previously reserved as th
Ouch! Painfully difficult to read. Good thing I took a French history class in uni--otherwise how else am I supposed to know about the Dreyfusards or the Paris Commune? However, his ability to place a dozen different thoughts in a single sentence, rivaling Proust, makes this book more training for reading comprehension passages than anything else.

I've given up on the book. Unreadable and undecipherable what political theory he's actually trying to advance.
Sep 18, 2015 Leonardo marked it as to-keep-reference  ·  review of another edition
La tesis de Bernard-Henri Lévy (en The Left in Dark Times) de que el antisemitismo del siglo xxi será «progresista» evoca la tesis de Milner sobre las «tendencias criminales de la Europa democrática»: la Europa «progresista» representa la fluidificación universal, la supresión de todos los límites, y los judíos, con su fidelidad a su modo de vida basado en su Ley y su tradición, representan un obstáculo para este proceso. ¿Pero no es la lógica del antisemitismo exactamente la contraria? ¿La pers ...more
Michael Milton
Too many words.
Jun 16, 2010 CD rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, politics
A deeply troubling book that has emerged as slightly more prophetic than the author could have imagined. As France struggles with its ability to continue the social promise to its citizens including recently being forced to raise the retirement age this work shadows the change in economic reality that has swept Europe. Idealism is for an earlier generation and those left from the barricades of '68 are stunned at how far wrong it has all gone.

Levy writes more about years previous to the economic
Oct 17, 2008 Jeffrey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Left in Dark Times by Bernard-Henri Lévy

Bernard-Henri Lévy has written his account of being a leftist that is struggling with the left in these heady times. The book begins with a recounting of a phone call between BHL and Sarkozy, the future President of France. Sarkozy wants an endorsement from BHL, an old friend even though they are foes in the realm of ideas. BHL refuses, believing that the Left is his family, yet the seed of doubt grows as he looks to see just what the left believes no
Aug 31, 2011 j_ay rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The Dark Times mentioned in the title of this book are further enhanced by the ridiculous term “anti-Semitism” on damn near every page. (This is a term that no intellectual should ever cater to, and it further ‘darkens’ the idea/practise/way of thinking one is trying to heal/change).
The supposed “new barbarism” is not at all new, and Lévy seems to think developing into this, mostly in the way of politics (supposedly the theme of the book), is by hammering on endlessly about “anti-Semitism” and
Teri L.
May 03, 2015 Teri L. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Interesting ideas, but rambling and difficult to follow.
Oct 17, 2008 Colleen marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Listened to two public radio interviews with this author and am intrigued enough by his intellect to read his philosophy. He seems to reflect my point of view, as one who wears the label of Liberal, believing it stands for The Village involvement in co-existence (as compared to my generalization of a Conservative, who stands for My Rights and looks out for The Individual). Judging by Levy's title, I assume he casts The Conservative as barbaric. Besides, his savory French accent has charmed me in ...more
Sep 16, 2009 Bob rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A pre-eminent French Leftie intellectual discusses the present state of the Left globally. Levy has some excellent insights, but his stream-of-consciousness style and long, convoluted sentences reminds me of reading Pynchon. IMHO both these writers would profit from a good editor, but I still enjoy their word play and thoughts even though the reading can sometimes be ponderous. I read Levy's American Vertigo and have the same criticism about the writing more than the philosophy and politics of h ...more
Aug 06, 2011 Iris rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The book is basically BHL’s intellectual autobiography and bears witness to his vast knowledge and intense participation in defining and shaping the political and moral backbones of our times. Unfortunately, it lacks originality of thought and depth of perceptiveness. (See BHL’s and Houellebeck’s “experiment with confessional literature” in Harper’s: Hou )
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
I saw the last 2 minutes of this guy on Charlie Rose last night and almost immediatley wrote down the name of his book so I'd remember to look it up today. It sounds very similiar to Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman which I absolutely loved. I'm very excited to read this.
Max Tzinman
Dec 03, 2015 Max Tzinman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good, clarifying! Only problem: I get the impression that the translation is quite weak...
Jun 03, 2012 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating.Very intelligent and thought-provoking especially since I believe as an American that we really don't have a "Left" to speak of. Blistering critique of Sarkozy and an illuminating look at French political thought.
david evans
Sep 25, 2008 david evans rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
incisive analysis of the left's continuing infatuation with totalitarianism, and its intellectual hypocrisy -- requires some knowledge of French politics but he's a terrific stylist
Chris Logan
Levy's intention and spirit is more to be admired than his execution. Reads like a compilation of half-edited notes. Problem in the translation? Worth a look.
Jul 10, 2009 Jessie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thought-provoking and complex. Really worth the time invested in it, especially if you're at any sort of psycho-philosophical-political crossroad...
Mar 11, 2009 Annie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Does reading 40 pages of a book and realizing that you agree, and then returning it to the friend you borrowed it from count as "reading?"
Mar 15, 2009 Alice rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This would have been better as an essay than a book. Very pretentious.
Jan 03, 2009 Nathaniel rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
BHL is a pretty lousy writer
May 26, 2015 Renee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: big-think
Better in the second half. Perhaps because I have no experience of France in the 1960s, its drift from the Left of that progressive moment to now is hard to relate to, and makes for difficult reading because of it. The section on resentment of America and the anti-Enlightenment thrust of some of that was interesting. The exploration of anti-Semitism buried in some contemporary "progressive" statements was chilling, and did help me to sort out what made me so uncomfortable in a few conversations ...more
Polymorphic Melanin
Polymorphic Melanin marked it as to-read
May 21, 2016
Sydney Goggins
Sydney Goggins rated it it was amazing
May 11, 2016
Malcolm Pellettier
Malcolm Pellettier marked it as to-read
May 05, 2016
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Bernard-Henri Lévy (born November 5, 1948 in Béni Saf, Algeria) is a French public intellectual and journalist. Often referred to today, in France, simply as BHL, he was one of the leaders of the "Nouvelle Philosophie" (New Philosophy) movement in 1976.

Lévy was born to a Jewish family in Béni Saf, Algeria on 5 November 1948. His family moved to Paris a few months after his birth. His father, André
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