Q: As one of France's most celebrated philosophers, can you give us any insight into the civil discontent that is pitting a generation of young people against the rest of the country?
It will get worse and worse and worse. For a long time, it was a relatively friendly coexistence or cohabitation, but the French haven't done much to integrate the Muslims, and there is a split now. Our organic sense of identity as a country has been split.
Perhaps that was inevitable. Many of us here were surprised last year when the French government banned hijabs, head scarves, and other religious emblems from public schools.
Are you saying
No, the simulation of power.
At 76, you are still pushing your famous theory about "simulation" and the "simulacrum," which maintains that media images have become more convincing and real than reality.
All of our values are simulated. What is freedom? We have a choice between buying one car or buying another car? It's a simulation of freedom.
So you don't
think that the
What we want is to put the rest of the world on the same level of masquerade and parody that we are on, to put the rest of the world into simulation, so all the world becomes total artifice and then we are all-powerful. It's a game.
When you say "we," who are you talking about? In your new book, "The Conspiracy of Art," you are pretty hard on this country.
Hardly. France chose not to send soldiers to Iraq, which has real meaning for countless individual soldiers, for their families and for the state.
Ah, yes. We are
"against" the war because it is not our war. But in
Isn't that kind of simplistic reasoning why people get so tired of French intellectuals?
There are no more French intellectuals. What you call French intellectuals have been destroyed by the media. They talk on television, they talk to the press and they are no longer talking among themselves.
Do you think
there are intellectuals in
For us, there was Susan Sontag and Noam Chomsky. But that is French chauvinism. We count ourselves. We don't pay attention to what comes from outside. We accept only what we invented.
Were you a friend of Susan Sontag?
We saw each other
from time to time, but the last time, it was terrible. She came to a conference
Do you read the work of any American writers?
I read many, many American novelists. Updike, Philip Roth, Truman Capote. I prefer American fiction to French fiction.
Perhaps French literature fell prey to French theory?
Unfortunately, French literature starved itself. It didn't need French theory to die. It died by itself.
Some here feel that the study of the humanities at our universities has been damaged by the incursion of deconstruction and other French theories.
That was the gift of the French. They gave Americans a language they did not need. It was like the Statue of Liberty. Nobody needs French theory.