I’m not sure America really has an equivalent to Bernard-Henri Levy, the French philosopher, intellectual, author and all-round media personality. I’ve asked Parisians about him: none are lukewarm in their opinions. It’s love him or hate him for BHL.
He writes books, opines on almost anything relevant in French or world politics, takes controversial positions on hot topics, and appears on French television regularly to cut loose on whatever is on his mind at the moment. He also has no qualms about heading to a combat zone or scene of human rights abuses in order to attract attention to what he considers to be (and what often times are) extreme injustices or outright crimes. Equally brave journalists and photographers go with him. Photos are taken. Stories are written. Media attention and subsequent public attention usually follow.
His latest focus is on America’s diminishing role in world affairs.
I’ve read some of his columns on current political topics (translated with mixed results into English). I’d estimate that I agree with probably 50% of what he says. Some of the things he talks about with regards to French current events and culture I can’t understand or relate to because, of course, they’re so very French.
There are a few things about him that I admire. First, he’s stayed with that hairstyle of his even though it’s so very…aerodynamic, I guess is the word. It’s part of his trademark look now, anyway, so he really has to keep it. It is a thick mop that the wind has a hell of a good time with, and that has only gone grey with time.
Another thing I like is his signature look: the white dress shirt and black suit, sans cravate, both bespoke and both by Charvet of Paris, which he wears for dinner out in the 6th arrondissement or touching down by military helicopter in South Sudan. It’s simple and effective: the ensemble and the mane make him instantly identifiable and communicate an individuality, elegance, and gravitas that I believe the public associates with his work. The modern word for this is ‘branding’. I simply call it ‘style.’
The final and most important thing I like about BHL is that he’s pretty much an Old Money Guy. With an inheritance from his family in the 9 figure range, he still keeps working. He knows that to be idle is a waste of time and a waste of life. He has his purpose. He does his thing.
In a recent interview with the New York Times, he was asked if he read, wrote, or watched movies when he traveled. His response was revealing:
“I do not live very differently when I travel and when I don’t, which means I do my duty. My duty is to read, to write and to fight. These are the three things that are my duty. Traveling and not traveling, this is what I do.”
Roll on, BHL.