Shlomo Sand on the decline of the French Intellectual, as reviewed by Tobias Grey. American Writer comments

It is more than interesting that Mr. Sand worked, in his youth, for a radio repair factory, in Jaffa, and was bowled over by The Mandarins, or at least Ms. de Beauvoir’s depiction of the world of an ingrown coterie of writers. What contemporary public intellectual can claim such proletarian roots?  I read this novel, in an English translation,  and  found it flat. I didn’t know this coterie well, but had read Sartre: A Life by Annie Cohen-Solal.

The Israeli historian Shlomo Sand was working in a radio repair factory during the 1960s when his humdrum life was transformed by reading Simone de Beauvoir’s novel The Mandarins. “I was bowled over by the romantic levity of the world of those who lived from writing, by the idealisation of their intellectual commitment to the service of lost causes,” writes Sand in The End of the French Intellectual.

What we in America see of ‘French Intellectuals’ is the pretentious  buffoon Bernard-Henri Levy. He was once the darling of the influential editors , Arianna Huffington and Tina Brown, whose careers have faded from the American scene, for good reasons. And what we see of  Houellebecq has been a small number of  interviews, and some reviews of his work in the more highfalutin literary journals.

With the death of Derrida, whose literary zenith in France ebbed, as he took up residence at American Universities – his coterie  of ‘Deconstructionists’ has also faded from American life. There has been no French Intellectual of comparable standing to fill the void left by Sartre’s death in 1980,  for Left-wing Intellectuals like Sand. Derrida represented a literary inheritor of the mantle of Sartre. While Houellebecq plays the literary part of a dissolute drunken xenophobe, who wont shut up, while parading his nihilism as a badge.

As an intellectual on The Left, Mr. Sand, anathema to The Financial Times readership, can’t seem to let go of his nostalgia for what was lost: a French Left-wing intellectual vanguard.

American Writer

About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.'
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