Dueling Writers Take on Each Other and the World
Random House Trade, Paperback, 9780812980783, 309pp.
Publication Date: January 11, 2011
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 Houellebecq, bestselling author of The Elementary Particles, widely derided as a sex-obsessed racist and misogynist. What began as a secret correspondence between bitter enemies evolved into a remarkable joint personal meditation by France’s premier literary and political live wires. An instant international bestseller, Public Enemies has now been translated into English for all lovers of superb insights, scandalous opinions, and iconoclastic ideas.
In wicked, wide-ranging, and freewheeling letters, the two self-described “whipping boys” debate whether they crave disgrace or secretly have an insane desire to please. Lévy extols heroism in the face of tyranny; Houellebecq sees himself as one who would “fight little and badly.” Lévy says “life does not ‘live’” unless he can write; Houellebecq bemoans work as leaving him in such “a state of nervous exhaustion that it takes several bottles of alcohol to get out.” There are also touching and intimate exchanges on the existence of God and about their own families.
Dazzling, delightful, and provocative, Public Enemies is a death match between literary lions, remarkable men who find common ground, confident that, in the end (as Lévy puts it), “it is we who will come out on top.”
Michel Houellebecq is a French novelist, poet, and literary critic. His novels include the international bestseller "The Elementary Particles" and "The Map and the Territory", which won the 2010 Prix Goncourt. He lives in France.