Wednesday, April 21, 2010


The summer doldrums have come early this year. Sarkozy's disarray after the regional elections seems to have precipitated a sort of retreat into silence and/or the past: thinking he's still Minister of the Interior, he has come out swinging against crime. Meanwhile, nothing else seems to be happening, unless it's banning burqas or footballers sleeping with underage prostitutes. Which makes me wonder whether Marine Le Pen will attack Franck Ribéry with all the gusto with which she went after Frédéric Mitterrand. Ribéry has actually confessed, even if in his case the sexual tourism was undertaken by his partner, at his expense.

Meanwhile, intellectuals are sniping at one another: here, Michel Onfray has a particularly unpleasant go at Elisabeth Roudinesco. I'm not sure how Onfray rose to celebrity status. One year I arrived in France and there, suddenly, he was, in all the bookstores, stacked up at the FNAC, etc. The media seem to need a few celebrity intellectuals, and with BHL having reached the point of oversaturation, I guess Onfray is the new "it" boy. But hasn't anyone ever told him that it's bad form to respond to negative reviews and worse form to respond vituperatively. Irony doesn't seem to be an arrow in his stylistic quiver.


Unknown said...

You did not read what Elisabeth Roudinesco wrote about Onfray's book in Libération. You should. It was much more unpleasant.

Kirk said...

Yes, Roudinesco kicked his ass.

What's surprising, though, is that Onfray seems to have (I haven't read the book) made a large number of ad hominem attacks on Freud, whereas he could simply have cited all the wacky ideas that Freud came up with, without any form of scientific validation, and leave it at that. But psychoanalysis is a form of religion in France, and that probably wouldn't have been controversial enough.

I read one of Onfray's books, the one about atheism, and found him to be a terrible writer (especially because of the serfeit of elipses he uses). This book is long, and, while I'd be interested to see what the argument is about, I think I'll pass on it.

He's due to have a book out about Camus soon. I wonder about that one. When he was on a TV show about Camus, it didn't seem, from what he said, that it would be critical.

Unknown said...

What is particularly dispiriting about this polemic (and I've now read the Roudinesco piece) is that both writers pretend that no other critique of Freud exists. The literature is of course huge, and of all sorts, and my analogy to BHL is, I think, the right one: just as les nouveaux philosophes discovered communism's shortcomings as if Solzhenitsyn had been the first to speak of them, so Onfray writes of Freud as if he were the Solzhenitsyn of pyschoanalysis--and the media treat him accordingly. This is show business.