Come Back, Michel Foucault - We Need You!
The first thing that struck me was the rise of “medical power.” The temptation to elevate that power is not new, of course. Health becomes an obsession; all social and political problems are reduced to infections that must be treated; and the will to cure becomes the paradigm of political action. And no one is ignorant of the fact that the effects of that doctrine can be horribly perverse.
What is a virus? A thing in itself, an essence visiting the body, something one can separate and treat in isolation? Or a dysfunction in a collection of organs? What is a body? Is it made up of silence and confinement? Or is it a set of mucuses, coughs, fears, terrors, sweat-drenched nightmares and bodies attached to other bodies?
Confinement’s happy few, the lucky ones who went off to tend the garden of their country house, and all the other joyful and good-humored confinees, ignored that the test was a test not only of nothingness, but of the vertigo and terror it induced.
Life, They Say
The other night, like everyone else, I found myself hypnotized by the nonstop images of admirable men and women battling disease and saving lives. What came back to me at that moment was a strange saying I heard long ago. The best doctors are destined for hell.
The Virus in the Age of Madness is renowned philosopher Bernard‐Henri Lévy’s reflection on the global state of affairs amid the COVID‐19 pandemic and the scars that this crisis will leave on our society for decades to come.
With medical developments, rising death tolls, and fake news beamed minute by minute through the vast web universe to billions of people, the dissemination of information during the coronavirus pandemic has radically altered social and political landscapes around the world.
In this extended essay, Bernard Henri-Lévy examines the phenomenon of a global pandemic in the digital age. Drawing on a range of thinkers including Plato and Foucault, Lacan and Girard, Camus and Sartre, Lévy asks profound and uncomfortable questions about the realities and mythologies that have emerged during this crisis.
He rejects liberal ideas that the virus is a message from nature, the inevitable result of global capitalism; he lambastes right-wing arguments that proclaim the pandemic a judgment of God deserved by those who have legalized gay marriage and abortion; he asks us to think critically about the loci of authority and power. With incisive analysis and linguistic flourish, Lévy takes a bird’s-eye view of the most consequential historical event of our time, and proposes a way to defend human society from contemporary threats to our social and economic future.
This is the book we’ve needed to question the hidden presumptions behind the rhetoric surrounding COVID-19; it articulates the questions we didn’t know how to ask. We’ve given the virus an illegitimate agency, as if it had a purpose, an agenda and a morality. What does that say about us?
Format: Paperback, E-book, Audiobook
Price: US $14.00 / UK £10.99
Publish Date: July 28, 2020
Size: 5 x 8“
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A philosopher, activist, filmmaker, and the author of over thirty books, Bernard-Henri Lévy is widely regarded as one of the most influential public intellectuals in the West.
Bernard‐Henri Lévy is a philosopher, activist, filmmaker, and the author of over thirty books, including The Empire and the Five Kings: America’s Abdication and the Fate of the World (2019), The Genius of Judaism (2017), Public Enemies: Dueling Writers Take on Each Other and the World (2012), Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism (2008), American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville (2006), Who Killed Daniel Pearl? (2003), and Barbarism with a Human Face (1979).
Lévy writes for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Sunday Times, The Atlantic, Foreign Policy, Vanity Fair, CNN, Tablet Magazine, The Algemeiner, Le Point, La Repubblica, El Espanol and other international outlets.
In 2016, his documentary, Peshmerga, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Filmed in 2015 along the thousand-kilometer front separating the Iraqi Kurds from the forces of the Islamic State, Peshmerga was the centerpiece of the New York Jewish Film Festival in January 2017. Lévy’s second documentary on Kurdistan explored the fight to reclaim the city of Mosul from the Islamic State. The Battle of Mosul premiered in Europe in March 2017. Earlier documentaries include The Oath of Tobruk (2012) and Bosna! (1994). The Quad Cinema in New York and the Nuart Theatre in Los Angeles presented a retrospective of his four war documentaries in January 2020.
Lévy’s international activism began in Bangladesh at the age of 20 and has not ceased to this day. At the heart of the matter is an obligation to the other, the dispossessed, and the forgotten, which he has sought to embody over decades of championing “lost causes,” from Bosnia to Africa’s forgotten wars, from Libya and Ukraine to the Kurdish Peshmerga’s fight against the Islamic State.
Lévy is co-founder of the antiracist group SOS Racisme and he has served on diplomatic missions for the French government.
He is widely regarded as one of the most influential public intellectuals in the West.
“Bernard-Henri Lévy does nothing that goes unnoticed. He is an intellectual adventurer who brings publicity to unfashionable political causes.”
– New York Times
“Only France could produce a phenomenon like Bernard-Henri Lévy … As celebrated as any rock star, he speaks uncomfortable truths.”
– Vanity Fair
“We need Mr. Lévy’s voice – clear, unconstructed, unconstrained, real – to help us.”
– Wall Street Journal
“A writer of enormous power and vitality.”
– San Francisco Chronicle
“Bernard-Henri Lévy, perhaps the most prominent intellectual in France today, [speaks] truth to power.”
– Boston Globe
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August 11, 2020
Bernard-Henri Levy in Conversation with Adam Gopnik
A Virtual Discussion Presented by City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco, and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy
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