The Genius of Judaism

Bernard-Henri Lévy, trans. from the French by Steven B. Kennedy. Random House, $28 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8129-9272-4
Lévy (Left in Dark Times), a prominent French journalist and politically engaged philosopher, turns his observations inward here, pondering the teachings of Judaism and the role they have played in contemporary European history as well as in his own life and intellectual inquiry. Lévy produces some gems of fine prose and incisive thinking—his musings on the meaning of the story of Jonah and the relevance of symbolic Ninevahs in our time are both original and poetic—but the book’s tone is uneven, shifting too frequently between French history, from Charlemagne to Proust, and his own history, citing his own contemporaries with whom a reader may be less familiar. An overall weakness, in fact, is the absence of context; for a reader without prior exposure to Lévy’s work, much of the prose reads as unshared allusions and strong assertions without evidence, which distract from his main argument around the importance of Jewish thought and reducing anti-Semitism. For those already interested in Lévy’s work, however, this will be a welcome addition to his oeuvre, especially his personal reflections and opinions on present-day politics. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/14/2016
Release date: 01/10/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 978-0-679-64379-1
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