Bernard-Henri Lévy

Bernard-Henri Lévy

Infobox Philosopher

region = Western Philosophy
era = 20th-century philosophy
21st-century philosophy
color = #B0C4DE
name = Bernard-Henri Lévy

caption =
birth = birth date and age|1948|5|11 Béni Saf, Algeria flagicon|Algeria
death =
school_tradition = New Philosophers
notable_ideas =
influences = Emmanuel Lévinas
influenced =

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 Lévy, was the multi-millionaire founder and manager of a timber company, Becob.

After attending the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris, Levy enrolled in the elite and highly selective École Normale Supérieure in 1968, from which he graduated with a degree in philosophy. Some of his professors there included prominent French intellectuals and philosophers Jacques Derrida and Louis Althusser. Lévy is also a pre-eminent journalist, having started his career as a war reporter for "Combat", the famous underground newspaper founded by Camus during the Nazi occupation of France. In 1971, he traveled to the Indian subcontinent, and was in Bangladesh covering the war of independence against Pakistan. This experience was the source of his first book, "Bangla-Desh, Nationalisme dans la révolution" ("Bangla-Desh, Nationalism in the Revolution"), which was published in 1973.

Returning to Paris, Levy became famous as the young founder of the New Philosophers ("Nouveaux Philosophes") school. This was a group of young intellectuals who were disenchanted with communist and socialist responses to the near-revolutionary upheavals in France of May 1968, which articulated a fierce and uncompromising moral critique of Marxist and socialist dogmas years prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union. ["...a group who broke away from the Marxist ideology dominating late 1960s France and the hard-line French left typified by Jean-Paul Sartre" Beth R. Alexander, "Commentary: Bernard Henri-Levy takes heat", "Washington Times", 10 November 2004 [] ] Throughout the 1970s, Levy taught a course on epistemology at the Université de Strasbourg and philosophy at the École Normale Supérieure. It was in 1977, on the television show "Apostrophes", that Lévy was presented, alongside André Glucksmann, as a "nouveau philosophe". In the very same year he published "Barbarism with a Human Face" ("La barbarie à visage humain"), arguing that Marxism was inherently corrupt.

In 1981 Levy published "L'Idéologie française" ("The French Ideology"), arguably his most influential work.

Levy is married to French actress Arielle Dombasle. His eldest daughter by his first marriage to Isabelle Doutreluigne, Justine Lévy, is a bestselling novelist. He also has a son, Antonin-Balthazar Lévy, by his second wife, Sylvie Bouscasse. He is a member of the Selection Committee of the Editions Grasset, and he runs the "La Règle du Jeu" ("The Rule of the Game") magazine. He writes weekly a column in the magazine "Le Point" and chairs the Conseil de Surveillance of La Sept-Arte.

When his father André died in 1995, Levy became the manager of the Becob company, until it was sold in 1997 for 750 million francs to the French entrepreneur François Pinault.

In September 2008, Levy made an American book tour to promote .

Philosophy, social criticism, and personality

Lévy was one of the first French intellectuals to call for intervention in Bosnia in the 1990s, and spoke out early about Serbian concentration camps. At the end of the 1990s, he founded with Benny Lévy and André Glucksmann an Institute on Levinassian Studies at Jerusalem.

In 2003, Levy wrote an account of his efforts to track the murderers of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who had been beheaded by Islamic extremists the previous year. At the time of Pearl’s death, he was visiting Afghanistan as French President Jacques Chirac's special envoy. ["THE ENVOY: At the request of French President Jacques Chirac, Lévy traveled to Afghanistan in February 2002 to gauge the needs of the Afghan people..." James Graff, "The Engaged Intellect", "TIME Europe", Vol. 161, No. 19, 12 May 2003 [,13155,901030512-449446,00.html] ] He spent the next year in Pakistan, India, Europe and the United States trying to uncover why Pearl's captors held and executed him. The resulting book, "Who Killed Daniel Pearl?", argues it was because Pearl knew too much about the links between Pakistan's secret service, nuclear scientists and al-Qaeda. The book won praise for Lévy's courage in investigating the affair in one of the world's most dangerous regions but was condemned by the British historian of India and travel writer, William Dalrymple (amongst others), for its lack of rigour and its caricatural depictions of Pakistani society, as well as his decision to fictionalize Pearl's thoughts in the closing moments of his life. [] [] [] [] . The book was also criticized, in common with his other works, for being neither journalism nor philosophy, but attempting to be both.

Lévy is, with his third wife, actress Arielle Dombasle, a regular fixture in Paris Match magazine, wearing his trademark unbuttoned white shirts and designer suits. Lévy's reputation for narcissism is legendary.Gaby Wood, "Je suis un superstar", "The Observer", 15 June 2003 [,6903,977498,00.html] ] One article about him coined the dictum, "God is dead but my hair is perfect." [Michael O'Donnell, "Another Frenchman assesses our democracy", "San Francisco Chronicle", 29 January 2006 [] ] He once said that the discovery of a new shade of grey left him "ecstatic." He is a regular victim of Noël Godin, ["On the one hand, he is such a po-faced laughing stock that the famed anarchist pie-thrower Noël Godin has hit him a record five times." Gaby Wood, "Je suis un superstar", "The Observer", 15 June 2003 [,6903,977498,00.html] ] who describes Lévy as a vain, pontificating dandy.

In March 2006 a letter Lévy co-signed entitled "" with eleven other individuals (most notably Salman Rushdie) was published in response to violent and deadly protests in the Muslim world surrounding the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy. When questioned about the Niqab face-veil worn by some Muslim women, during the United Kingdom debate over veils, Lévy told the Jewish Chronicle that "the veil is an invitation to rape". [The Jewish Chronicle, 14 October 2006 edition. Not available online, quote in context: "Our time is almost up, but BHL becomes the most animated I have seen him when I ask him about Jack Straw's intervention on Muslim women and the veil. ‘Jack Straw’, he says, leaning close to me, ‘made a great point. He did not say that he was against the veil. He said it is much easier, much more comfortable, respectful, to speak with a woman with a naked face. And without knowing, he quoted Levinas, who is the philosopher of the face. Levinas says that [having seen] the naked face of your interlocutor, you cannot kill him or her, you cannot rape him, you cannot violate him. So when the Muslims say that the veil is to protect women, it is the contrary. The veil is an invitation to rape’"]

Critics of Lévy are not limited to pie-throwers, however; French journalists Jade Lindgaard and Xavier de la Porte, in a biography of the philosopher, claimed that "In all his works and articles, there is not a single philosophical proposition." The book is contested, however, and Lévy sought legal action against the authors. ["The authors of the book entitled "Le B.A. BA du BHL" (The A to Z of BHL) accuse the celebrated thinker and prolific writer of exploiting his media contacts for intellectual and material gain." Beth R. Alexander, "Commentary: Bernard Henri-Levy takes heat", "Washington Times", 10 November 2004 [] ]

Other critics of Levy attack his support of the Mitterrand doctrine that allows Italian terrorists members of Brigate Rosse to live in France as free men and women despite the fact that the Italian courts have sentenced them to long imprisonment or Life sentence. Levy argues that during the late 1970s and 1980s basic human rights were not respected in Italy.

Breaking into the English language

Although Levy's books have been translated into the English language since "La Barbarie à visage humain", his breakthrough was with the publication of a series of essays between May and November 2005 for The Atlantic Monthly. In the series, "In the Footsteps of Tocqueville", Levy imitated his compatriot and predecessor in American critique, Alexis de Tocqueville, criss-crossing America, interviewing Americans and recording his observations first for magazine and then book publication.


Lévy's works have been translated into many different languages; below is an offering of works available in either French or English.

Available in French

*" _fr. Bangla-Desh, Nationalisme dans la révolution", 1973.
*" _fr. La barbarie à visage humain", 1977.
*" _fr. Le testament de Dieu", 1978.
*" _fr. Idéologie française", 1981.
*" _fr. Le diable en tête", 1984.
*" _fr. Eloge des intellectuels", 1987.
*" _fr. Les derniers jours de Charles Baudelaire", 1988.
*" _fr. Les aventures de la liberté", 1991.
*" _fr. Le jugement dernier", 1992
*" _fr. Piero della Francesca", 1992
*" _fr. Les hommes et les femmes", 1994.
*" _fr. Bosna!",1994.
*" _fr. La pureté dangereuse", 1994.
*" _fr. Le siècle de Sartre", 2000.
*" _fr. Réflexions sur la Guerre, le Mal et la fin de l’Histoire", 2002.
*" _fr. Qui a tué Daniel Pearl ?", 2003.
*" _fr. Récidives", 2004.
*"American Vertigo", 2006

Available in English

*Bernard Henri Lévy, Richard Veasey, "Adventures on the Freedom Road" [ Harvill Press (an imprint of Random House)] , 1995, hardcover, ISBN 1860460356
*Edited by Bernard-Henry Lévy, "What Good Are Intellectuals: 44 Writers Share Their Thoughts", [ Algora Publishing] , 2000, paperback, 276 pages, ISBN 1892941104
*Bernard-Henri Levy, translated by Andrew Brown, "Sartre: The Philosopher of the Twentieth Century", [ Polity Press] , July 2003, hardcover, 456 pages, ISBN 074563009X
*Bernard-Henri Lévy, "Who Killed Daniel Pearl?", [ Melville House Publishing] , September 2003, hardcover, 454 pages, ISBN 0971865949
*Bernard-Henri Lévy, "War, Evil and End of History", [ Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd] , October 2004, hardcover, 400 pages, ISBN 0715633368
*Bernard Henri Lévy, Charlotte Mandell, "American Vertigo : Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville", [ Random House] , January 2006, hardcover, 320 pages, ISBN 1400064341
*, 2008


:"Note: Some of the content of this article comes from the equivalent [ French-language wikipedia article] ."

* Dominique Lecourt, "Mediocracy : French Philosophy Since the Mid-1970s" (2001), new ed. Verso, London, 2002.


External links

* [ Biography, bibliography, news, and more than 400 press clips written by or about Bernard-Henri Lévy]
* [ Institute for Levinassian Studies, co-founded by Bernard-Henri Lévy, Benny Lévy and Alain Finkielkraut]
* [ "In the Footsteps of Tocqueville"] - An article in the "Atlantic Monthly".
* [ "On the Road Avec M. Lévy"] - A review of "American Vertigo" in the "New York Times Book Review" by Garrison Keillor.
* [ "Mediocracy in America"] - A review of "American Vertigo" in the literary magazine, n+1 by Sam Stark.
* [ "The Lies of Bernard Henri Levy"] Critical Doug Ireland article in "In These Times".
* [ Profile: Bernard Henry Lévy]

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  • Bernard-Henri Lévy — (* 5. November 1948 in Beni Saf, Algerien) ist ein französischer Journalist, Publizist und Mitbegründer der Nouvelle Philosophie. Er schreibt regelmäßig für das Wochenmagazin Le Point, ist einer der Direktoren des Verlagshauses Éditions Grasset,… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • Bernard-Henri Levy — Bernard Henri Lévy (* 5. November 1948 in Beni Saf, Algerien) oft auch nach seinen Initialen BHL genannt, ist ein französischer Philosoph und Publizist und Vertreter der Neuen Philosophie. Er leitet das Verlagshaus Bernard Grasset mit. Bekannt… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • LEVY, BERNARD-HENRI — (1948– ), French writer, philosopher, and essayist. Levy was born in Algeria, and brought up and educated in Paris. Graduating in philosophy, he was active in both thought and action, producing essays, novels, films, and newspaper articles.… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Levy, Bernard-Henri — (b. 1947)    French philosopher. Born in Beni Sof, Algeria, he went to Paris as a child. He studied at the Lyc6e Pasteur and the Lyc6e Louis le Grand. His works include La Barbarie a visage humain, Le Testament de Dieu and Vidiologie Francaise as …   Dictionary of Jewish Biography

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