tion and the reconstruction of onernof the strongest philosophies of therntwentieth century. And then finally,rna haphazard and yet necessary, arnclandestine and yet avowed meetingrnwith . . . Judaism. This was notrnof course a conversion. But Sartre,rnhaving recovered his philosophicalrnappetite, devours with voracity andrnas usual makes another’s philosophyrnhis own. He kneads it. Herntransforms it. He has the nerve tornbecome a young man again, causingrngrief or wrath in his own tribe.rnVery young or very old, as is wellrnknown, he is born once more inrnthe same life and reverts to therndandyism of his origins. What arnstory! What panache!rn”Quelle histoire! Quel panache!”rnThere are words which, spontaneouslyrnerupting in quickly uttered speech, revealrnmore than entire sentences, paragraphs,rnor chapters. What panachel Onernof Edmond Rostand’s favorite words, andrnthus too of his flamboyant hero, Cyranornde Bergerac. A favorite word with archromanticsrnwho would like nothing betterrnthan forever to be up front, on thernbreach, and, if only for a fleeting moment,rnliving dangerously. As Bernard-rnHenri Levy did and was ostentatiouslyrnseen to be doing, some years ago, in strifetornrnSarajevo.rnLike Alfred de Musset, who spentrnmuch of his life regretting that he hadrnLIBERAL ARTSrnYOUR CHEATIN’ HEARTrn’T >rnerry Harvey, a business professor,rnadopts an uncommon definitionrnof cheating in his classes.rn”‘Cheating is the failure to assistrnothers on an exam if they requestrnit,’ he tells his students. . . .rn”Harvey says his policy bringsrnout the best in his students becausernthey are able to think creativelyrnwithout the stress of working onrntheir own . . . .rn”Students think it is wrong to askrnother students for help on tests andrnassignments because they are neverrnpresented with a different perspectivernon cheating, Harvey says.”rn—from the GW Hatchet (March 2,rn2000), the student newspaper ofrnGeorge Washington Universityrnbeen born too late to serve under therngreat Napoleon, Bernard-Henri Levy hasrnoften given one the impression of beingrnan intellectual in desperate search of arnnoble cause—such as that of the SpanishrnRepublicans which, in 1936, transformedrnAndre Malraux, the dynamicrnnovelist, into a dynamic “man of action.”rnA quarter of a century ago, in 1977,rnBernard-Henri Levy established himselfrnovernight as the most dazzling practitionerrnof philosophical interpretation, with arnbook cleverly entitled La Barbarie a visagernhumain (“Barbarism with a humanrnface”) —clearly inspired by AlexanderrnDubcek’s “socialism with a human face”rnand perhaps too by the “Charter ’77″rnmovement of protestation launched byrndissident Czech and Slovak intellectualsrnin Custav Husak’s “normalized” Czechoslovakia.rnAlthough it had been preceded,rnseven years before, by Jean-MariernBenoist’s Marx est mort (“Marx is dead”).rnLevy’s book, with its strikingly topical title,rnwas an immediate best-seller. It offeredrnhundreds of thousands of youngrnreaders “proof of what they had vaguelyrnbegun to realize, so blatant was now thernevidence; that Marxism had lost its revolutionaryrnfire and, as in Brezhnev’srnU.S.S.R., had sunk into a state of bureaucraticrnlethargy. But how many of thosernwho bought the book really understoodrnit? I doubt that the ratio was as high asrnone in ten. But, in a sense, “comprehension”rnwas not what was demanded of thernreaders. They were invited to admire thernauthor’s elegiac lamentation bewailing arnsocialistic “God that had failed” —onernwhich, as Levy noted with stenographicrnconcision in the preface, was “born inrnParis in 1848, dead in Paris in 1968.” Inrnstrict historical fact socialism, unquestionablyrna French invention, was firstrnpropounded in the late 1820’s. WhenrnKarl Marx published his CommunistrnManifesto in 1848, he had left Paris andrnwas already living in London. But neverrnmind the historical pedantry! What matteredrnthen, and still matters most todayrnfor Bernard-Henri Levy, is the lyricalrnelan, the polemical verve, the poetic souffle,rnthe rhetorical emphase (those untranslatablerncomponents of French revolutionaryrngrandiloquence), adroitlyrnmixed into a spicy bouillabaisse ofrnphilosophical ingredients borrowedrnfrom every conceivable name-droppedrnsource-from Plato, Spinoza, and thatrnarch-romantic dreamer, Jean JacquesrnRousseau, down to Marxism’s last greatrnFrench advocate, Louis Althusser, GillesrnDeleuze, and the inevitable Martin Heidegger,rnwho, in Levy’s Steele de Sartre, isrndeclared, urhi et orbi and as so self-evidentrnas to require no proof, the greatestrnphilosopher of the 20th century.rn(To refresh my memory, I have justrntaken another look at La Barbarie a visagernhumain—and, sure enough, in the firstrn30 pages the word “ontology” is repeatedrnno less than four times, enough to persuadernthe most skeptical of readers thatrnBHL is a serious philosopher who hasrnreally done his homework.)rnIt would be paying Bernard-HenrirnLevy too high an honor to credit himrnwith having made fashionable a philosophicalrnstyle aimed at swift rhetoricalrnbrilliance rather than at plodding profundity.rnThe romantic-revolutionar)- vocabularyrngoes back at least as far as JulesrnMiehelet, the historian-prophet of thernFrench Revolution, and was providedrnwith its first motivating slogan by Danton,rnwith his galvanizing exhortation:rn”I’audace, encore I’audace, toujours I’audacel”rnAnd what eoidd be more audacious,rnat any rate, for a sedentar)’ tiiinkerrnlike Sartre than to make one’s principalrnaim in life the epatement (dumbfounding)rnof the smug and intolerably self-satisfiedrnbourgeois? Sartre’s early infatuationrnwith Heidegger’s philosophy may wellrnhave been due to its almost total opacit}’rnfor the ordinary middle-class reader, thusrnconveniently made to look like a dunce,rncompared to the “progressive” wielders ofrnan admirably esoteric vocabulary. Inevitably,rnhowever, tiiis got Sartre into seriousrntrouble when he made himself thernphilosophical spokesman of France’srn”proletarians,” who turned out to be evenrndimmer in their incomprehension of existentialo-rnHeideggerian terminologyrnthan the most obtuse bourgeois reader.rnI shall never forget the Master’s stammeringrnembarrassment when, havingrnconsented to “meet the people” in a janipaekedrnamphitheater of the Sorbonnernduring the “May revolution” of 1968, hernwas asked by a genuine proletarian in thernaudience, “Why, Monsieur Sartre, dornyou use a language that we workers cannotrnunderstand?” It was a good questionrnand one which, despite his verbal brilliancernand an expositional style that is farrnless woolly and long-winded than that ofrnSartre, Bernard-Henri Levy has so farrnbeen unable to answer, since he feels therncompelling need to dazzle his guilt-riddenrnmiddle-class readers who are allowedrnto atone for the “original sin” of havingrnbeen born into a relatively well-to-dorn36/CHRONICLESrnrnrn