Recruited by Françoise Verny in 1973, Lévy joins Editions Grasset as editor of three collections (Enjeux, Figures, Théoriciens) before becoming, in 1976, the head of the Nouveaux Philosophes (New Philosophers) line featuring Jean-Paul Dollé, Christian Jambet, Guy Lardreau, André Glucksmann, and Jean-Marie Benoist, among others. The following year he begins to edit the “Ideas” section in the Quotidien de Paris and works with Le Nouvel Observateur.
In 1975, with Michel Butel, Lévy founds a short-lived daily, L’Imprévu.
That summer he goes to Portugal, where he befriends a leftist officer, Otelo de Carvalho. With Gilles Hertzog, he produces a long report on the turmoil in Portugal that is published in Le Monde Diplomatique.
Leaving Portugal, Lévy travels in Angola with Gilles Hertzog and Dominique de Roux. The three are embedded with the rebels led by Jonas Savimbi.
In 1976, he meets Louis Aragon, who casts him the role of Paul Denis in an adaptation of “Aurélien” by Michel Favart and Françoise Verny.
It is Grasset’s 1977 publication of La Barbarie à visage humain (Barbarism with a Human Face) that launches the “BHL” phenomenon. This essay, which critiques “progressivism” as well as fascism, Stalinism, and Marxism, provokes passionate discussion. The book is an immediate success.
Praised by Roland Barthes and Philippe Sollers, the book sells hundreds of thousands of copies and is translated into many languages. Leonardo Sciascia writes the preface to the Italian edition. Octavio Paz champions it in Spain and Latin America.
In 1978, Lévy travels to Argentina for the World Cup bearing the false credentials of a sportswriter. But he is arrested upon arrival in Buenos Aires. After a brief stint in jail, he publishes a report on the Argentinian regime’s violations of human rights in Le Nouvel Observateur and The New Republic.
Le Testament de Dieu (Grasset) is published in 1979. Taking up where La Barbarie à visage humain left off, Lévy studies and mines the Bible for a response to contemporary nihilism and disenchantment. The book is hailed by Emmanuel Levinas, whose works figure prominently in Lévy’s text.
Bernard-Henri Lévy makes frequent visits to Italy, where he frequents leftist and far-left circles, often in the company of psychoanalyst Armando Verdiglione, to mount an intellectual argument against terrorism. Wishing, as he says, to “fight the enemy on his own ground,” he contributes articles to the alternative daily Lotta Continua, in which he emphasizes the fascist genealogy of far-left terrorism.
In Paris, Lévy becomes friends with Romain Gary. The friendship will last until Gary’s death in 1980.
In 1980, with Jacques Attali, Françoise Giroud, Marek Halter, Maria-Antonietta Macciocchi, and others, Lévy founds Action internationale contre la Faim, an aid organization devoted to fighting hunger.
With François Mitterrand as a witness, Bernard-Henri Lévy marries Sylvie Bouscasse. The couple soon have a son, Antonin-Balthazar-Solal.