Subscription 790/year or 190/quarter

Alain Finkielkraut: La seule exactitude

Alain Finkielkraut warns against going to history to learn – and believes the time we live in can only be understood by virtue of himself.


Alain Finkielkraut: La seule exactitude. Edition Stock, 2015

France is shaking. Society is broken down. Our country is unrecognizable. The main message of the outer French right-wing intellectuals is clear, and it is Islam and its supporters who are to blame – combined with a totally powerless state, weakened by the democratic rule of law's recognition of human rights and market economy. Reality dissemination is done in the best French way – catchy literary portrayal in Michel Houellebecq's Submission, Éric Zemmours The French suicide, and now in Alain Finkielkrauts La seule exactitude – "The only precise thing." The scents are the thoughts of integration and assimilation.

Not repeating. Imagine if Stein Mehren, Karl Ove Knausgård and Jon Fosse were to devote their authoring careers to supporting Siv Jensen and Per Sandberg – and at the same time blatantly deny it. This is where the debate in France stands. How complicated and intellectual can you imagine the crisis in French – and European – society, without giving political support to the Marine Le Pen National Front? And, as in Finkielkraut's book, without reference to the fascist experiences of the past? "We experience no repetition of 30's Europe," writes Finkielkraut. No – we are alive today, the message is – i the exact time. It is this we must understand and synchronize US with, the author believes.
We must disregard the outdated, dogmatic understandings that we cling to, such as "learning history to understand the present and the future", or "looking backward to stake out the course ahead". For this brings us completely wrong, the author claims. He shows how yesterday's respect for society's institutions has made him – an intellectual Polish Jew – a fan of the religion-neutral French Republic. Now, however, the values ​​and institutions have been abolished, he believes. Deconstructed, as Finkelkraut's author colleague Eric Zemmour says. And also Finkielkraut shouts a resounding warning.

The branch we are sitting on. After reading La seule exactitude I am left with something of the same feeling as after reading Asle Tojes iron cage. The books highlight all of society's worst development traits, sum them up into a doomsday prophecy – and blame us for the condition. It hurts. The analyzes are well documented and the arguments good. IN La seule exactitude Finkielkraut shows through 300 pages how everything is about to go to hell. And even worse: We stand on the rise ourselves and cheer on our own downfall, because with the "naivety" naivety we have established a legal system and societal structures on democratic principles that not only allow, but accelerate our annihilation.

A bauta. Alain Finkielkraut is no beginner. For 30 years he has led the country's premier cultural program on radio, publishing so many books and articles that Wikipedia has lost track. The first time he let it really hurt the reader was in 1987, when he published The defeat of the thought – "The defeat of thought". His thesis, which goes like a red thread through all of the author's works, is that democracy and freedom of speech have their clear limitations. And this is where his critics claim that he washes the left (Houellebecq, Zemmours) transition to the outer right – through the "abolition" of the real world: "We have devoted ourselves to fighting a continuous battle on two fronts: against the real-world anti-racist apostasy – and at the same time against the outpouring of simple racist attitudes. In the name of goodness and justice, we have reduced our ability to stand up for our own values.»Finkielkraut grabs the long-haired sixty-eighth-left and pulls it down into the dirty right-hand guard. Ouch! we should hear. But the worst thing is to look at the absence of pain in those he criticizes. For the readers, many, and the attention is great: Finkielkraut gets to sit in the firing line on the state channel on Saturday evenings, where he is bombarded with precision by France's foremost revolver journalists for just over an hour. Imagine how fun it was if something similar happened in Norway!

What can we expect from today's and future generations when their moral and social understanding is formed exclusively by entertainment?

The world wants to be deceived. La seule exactitude is a form of political diary from the last three dramatic years (2013–2015). Every event of a political and social nature is visited, illuminated and judged – even the Melody Grand Prix gets the pass written down when the winner is described as a winner over differences, not despite differences. And who is Charlie really? The question is naturally attracted much attention – like our tribute to Mandela after his death, which dazzled our ability to see through the country's corrupt leaders. Also the case of the expelled little Gypsy girl, whom the French president was forced to invite back during a press conference, is among the star examples of populist popular claims that keep reality's rather brutal facts hidden under the rug. Yes, the world will be deceived – and it will be.

The signs of the time. As Finkielkraut himself points out: What can we expect from today's and future generations when their moral and social understanding is exclusively formed by entertainment? They have divorced parents (hurt), in principle and poor schooling (also hurt), empty churches taken over by mosques (hurt again). Had Finkielkraut's Polish parents fled here instead of staying in France, he would probably have noticed that few dances as enthusiastically around the golden calf as us Norwegians. Well manifested by a bourgeois confirmation circus that closes the youth's eyes to both the existence of God and the many brutal realities of their own time.
The book's strength is that it addresses frightening political developments that society has neither taken the time to digest or reflect on. And by making it short and intense, yet elegant and compelling, Finkielkraut stands out as one of the foremost historians of our time. His latest book forces us to face the reality and at the same time debate whether it is Finkielkraut and his co-conspiratorial socialists who have a monopoly on conveying the many dilemmas of our time. The question provokes a scream for antics.
For while we here on the mountain let us hypnotize Knausgård's narcissistic reality picture and Jo Nesbø's Tarantino morbidity, resting on the Oil Fund's soft sleeping pillow, the world is entering a rushing change of pace. And this happens without us having thinkers who are able to take the debate from the left, just as Finkielkraut and his author colleagues do from the right.

Achilles heel of democracy. The only literary footnote missing La seule exactitude, Voltaire's famous phrase is about wanting to defend your right to say what you want to death, without necessarily sharing your opinion. Here is Finkielkraut's and the problem of our time: Is it Voltaire's fundamental democratic right that we are forced to settle, to save the existence of our Western civilization?

We ourselves stand on the rise side and cheer on our own downfall.

The weakness of Finkielkraut's epic is that it does not present a plausible alternative to how countries should be organized or cooperate to solve the crises we face, beyond closing borders and trying to regain useless sovereignty. Here, no attempt is made to understand that today's form of government is the result of several countries joining forces to live up to democratic, universal principles at a time when humanitarian catastrophes and technological development threaten Finkielkraut and his doomsday prophets with peace and tolerance.
Not a hint of mechanisms and governance society needs to tackle not only the "infiltration" of the Muslims, but all the major issues of our time: climate, energy, migration, freedom of speech and privacy – which make any attempt to establish national barriers and self-assertion useless. "Being independent is not doing what we want, it's responding to what we do," says Finkielkraut, delicious and seductive. The problem is that he does not devote as much as a thought to what that answer should consist of.

Frisvold is a writer, living in Brussels.

Paal Frisvold
Paal Frisvold
Writer for MODERN TIMES on Europe issues.

You may also like