Cover of the book The Virus in the Age of Madness from Bernard-Henri Lévy
The Virus in the Age of Madness, Bernard-Henri Lévy

Bernard-Henri Lévy

The Virus in the Age of Madness

128 pages

Publisher: Yale University Press

ISBN: 9780300257373

Translator: Steven B. Kennedy

Issue date: July 2020

A trenchant look at how the coronavirus reveals the dangerous fault lines of contemporary society. Forget the world that came before. The author of American Vertigo serves up an incisive look at how COVID-19 reveals the dangerous fault lines of contemporary society. With medical mysteries, rising death tolls, and conspiracy theories beamed minute by minute through the vast web universe, the coronavirus pandemic has irrevocably altered societies around the world. In this sharp essay, world-renowned philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy interrogates the many meanings and metaphors we have assigned to the pandemic—and what they tell us about ourselves.

Drawing on the philosophical tradition from Plato and Aristotle to Lacan and Foucault, Lévy asks uncomfortable questions about reality and mythology: he rejects the idea that the virus is a warning from nature, the inevitable result of global capitalism; he questions the heroic status of doctors, asking us to think critically about the loci of authority and power; he challenges the panicked polarization that dominates online discourse. Lucid, incisive, and always original, Lévy takes a bird’s-eye view of the most consequential historical event of our time and proposes a way to defend human society from threats to our collective future.

A portion of the author’s proceeds will be donated to Binc (The Book Industry Charitable Foundation).



A stirring alarm addressed to an unsettled world.

Bernard-Henri Lévy does nothing that goes unnoticed. He is an intellectual adventurer who brings publicity to unfashionable political causes.

Only France could produce a phenomenon like Bernard-Henri Lévy, . . . As celebrated as any rock star, he speaks uncomfortable truths.

We need Mr. Lévy’s voice—clear, unconstructed, unconstrained, real—to help us.

A writer of enormous power and vitality.

Bernard-Henri Lévy, perhaps the most prominent intellectual in France today, [speaks] truth to power.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted every facet of ordinary life, from work to school to how people interact socially. Philosopher/activist Bernard-Henri Lévy contends that the pandemic has produced new social mythologies. . . . In The Virus in the Age of Madness, Lévy analyzes the politics and power relations operative in all these mythologies, and also what the mythologies tells us about ourselves. Throughout he argues that these mythologies, however ubiquitous, are neither insightful nor helpful. Rather they serve as a distraction from addressing the complex array of challenges at hand. They are a fantasy—a bad-faith detour into madness—that stems from the population’s collective inability to confront the world.

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