Hate Letter Books

One of the more intriguing books coming out of France this fall is Public Enemies, a series of letters between Michel Houellebecq and Bernard-Henri Lévy.

As described in the Financial Times:

Mr Houellebecq is a novelist who – in the words of the American writer John Updike – has a “thoroughgoing contempt for, and strident impatience with, humanity”. Mr Lévy is the bare-chested “new philosopher” and human rights champion whose modesty is as hard to locate as his shirt buttons.

The publishers say the book, which takes the form of an exchange of letters, allows the writers to express their views on a variety of subjects – including each other. Both authors are intellectual bruisers who revel in provocation.

This could be a lot of fun to read . . . And as John Thornhill speculates, could lead to a new genre:

The publishers’ concept is certainly intriguing, though, and could evolve into a whole genre of hate letters. Love letters, written by people revelling in how much they have in common, can be soppy and exclusive. Hate, on the other hand, is a far more democratic emotion: anyone can participate.

Hate letters could highlight the ways we differ from each other and tell us far more about the human condition. As Leo Tolstoy wrote in Anna Karenina: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

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