A manifesto from European writers to save Europe could have get more attention, Angélique Mounier-Kuhn argues.
“Europe? It’s an invention of writers”, used to say German author Heinrich Mann. Now they are coming out to fight for their invention.
Half prolific writer, half celebrity, Bernard-Henri Lévy, or BHL, as the French press nicknames him, is a serial crusader. He has shown over the years a strong taste to jump from one cause to another (Bosnia, Georgia, Gaza, Libya…). Each crisis is an occasion to get back under the spotlight.
He usually stages himself at the center of a war scene, and Paris Match is always the first to have the picture. This has won him countless mockeries. For the most forgiving, he is a kind of Don Quixote de Saint Germain-des-Prés. But for the vast majority, he embodies something famous in Brussels : French arrogance.
And guess what BHL’s latest obsession is? Europe !
“Europe is on fire” is the title of a pro-European op-ed co-signed by 30 of Europe’s most acclaimed writers, amongst which a number of Nobel Laureates, that was published a couple of days ago in the French daily Libération. It is due to be released in a dozen of other European newspapers, including the Guardian, Die Welt, El Pais or La Repubblica. Elfriede Jelinek of Austria, Gyorgy Konrad and Agnes Heller of Hungary, Adam Michnik of Poland, Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie and Simon Schama of Britain or Peter Schneider of Germany and Claudio Magris of Italy are petitioners. The list extends to Albania’s Ismael Kadare, Belarusia’s Svetlana Alexievich or Turkey’s Orhan Pamuk.
Calling themselves “European patriots”, they call for “a new battle for civilization” three-quarters of a century after the defeat of fascism and 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Without “a new spirit of resistance,” they warn, the coming European elections “promise to be the most calamitous we have ever known — victory for the wreckers, disgrace for those who still believe in the legacy of Erasmus, Dante, Goethe and Comenius; disdain for intelligence and culture; explosions of xenophobia and anti-Semitism; a disaster.”
Bernard-Henri Lévy has sadly managed to make everyone aware that he was the man behind the tribune. He has not only initiated, but also written the manifesto, and made sure that readers would be aware of that. In France, this sheer fact may discredit the initiative.
And that is too bad!
It’s not as if prominent intellectuals took the street everyday to defend Europe. The manifesto might be pompous, high-flown and far away from any concrete solution. But who cares? Artists are no politicians or technocrats. They are witnesses, and conscience awakeners, and have always been committed to the European project.
And excepting the author, the writers signing the manifesto are the best.
As they claim, Europe “despite its mistakes, its lapses and sometimes, its cowardice, remains the second home of every free man and woman on the planet.”