Houellebecq v. Lévy


Michel Houellebecq’s opening shot in Ennemis publics, an exchange of letters between the two men over the first half of 2008, ranks up there with the very best anti-Lévy prose: “A master of the damp squib and the farcical media hype, you bring dishonour even to the white shirts you wear. Intimate with the powerful, you have bathed in obscene wealth since childhood and typify what slightly low-brow magazines such as Marianne continue to call the ‘caviar left’ . . . . A philosopher without thought but not without connections, you are also the author of the most ridiculous film in the history of cinema”. To be fair, Houellebecq goes on to call himself a self-hating reactionary whose “belaboured provocations have fortunately lost their appeal”. He concludes that the two of them “embody the frightful decline of French culture and intelligence”, pointing out that neither is mentioned in the end credits of the film Ratatouille. But the jokey self-deprecation reads like a polite codicil to Houellebecq’s main point – the savaging of Lévy.

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