False friends and old adversaries

How long will Kouchner stay in his post and at what price? Is his appointment just a move by Sarkozy

Nicolas Sarkozy has chosen my friend Bernard Kouchner as his foreign minister. I am delighted for France, of course, which has ended the civil cold war to which politics has so often been reduced. I am delighted for Darfur, or for what remains of Chechnya, and for all those who will find in Kouchner an advocate who is both passionate and in a position to act. The man himself? The French doctor, an enemy of realpolitik and a stranger to diplomatic protocol? This moral authority who will sit, every Wednesday morning, in a cabinet that includes a minister for national identity and immigration? I know him well enough to guess how hard this will be for him. How long will he stay in his post and at what price? And is his appointment just a move by Sarko to destabilise the left ahead of parliamentary elections? These are the questions. For the moment, let's welcome the good news.

Forgotten victims

Usually, it's at the height of summer that I see Bono under the fig trees of the Colombe d'Or hotel where I retire to write and where, in neighbouring Eze, that other village of the Nice hinterland, the great writer Maurice Blanchot used to visit before his death. We are there to visit the Cap d'Antibes as guests of Graydon Carter, for the annual dinner of Vanity Fair magazine, which has not often had cause to print Blanchot's name. A different setting, a different context. But we are talking about the same thing - the suffering and desperation of Africa that touches all our hearts, Carter as much as the rest of us.

Is not Africa (and not only Darfur) the forgotten, the victim of globalisation? Is not the Hegelian prophecy of an "End of History" emerging from the brutalisation of man now being realised? We must unite our forces in this struggle. This brings me to Bob Geldof, the mass of energy who was behind the "open letter on Darfur" signed by Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard, Václav Havel, myself and others, and who I am about to see in London after a lively debate on Ethiopia 20 years ago set us in opposition to one another. As Blanchot said, what distinguishes tragic events (yesterday Bosnia, today Darfur) from others is that they are points of rupture that separate you from false friends, reconcile you with one-time adversaries and redraw the political map for all concerned.

Irresponsible intellectual

There was a furore in Italy after I visited Cesare Battisti, the crime writer and former left-wing militant, in prison in Brasilia. A botched trial, while he was on the run, found him responsible for four murders and sentenced him to life imprisonment. My goodness! Life in prison! In Rome, the Italian justice minister, Mastella, has denounced my "irresponsibility", typical of a French intellectual who "doesn't understand anything about the Italian situation".

What I do understand is that a man changes over 30 years. And what I also understand is that an accused man who, like Battisti, has protested his innocence for 30 years, has the right to meet his judges at least once and explain himself in front of them - something that Italian law in absentia does not permit.

New fascism

The most stimulating book I have read in a long time is What's Left?, by Nick Cohen. It is an indictment of what the left has become, not only in Britain, but throughout the world. Fifty years ago, the left was weakened by its collusion with the second form of totalitarianism, which was the triumph of Soviet communism that came after the defeat of Nazism. Bearing in mind the historical circumstances of the time, there is good reason why ideas were directed towards Soviet communism - perhaps even the strain of thought that in France was associated with the New Philosophers.

But now we see the same left putting the same thought, the same blindness and, at heart, the same bad reactions in the service of a third form of fascism that some of us have dubbed "Islamofascism". The struggle of tomorrow? But of course.

Translated by Daniel Trilling

To read this diary in French, go to www.newstatesman.com

Bernard-Henri évy's "American Vertigo" is published by Gibson Square (£17.99)

This article first appeared in the 28 May 2007 issue of the New Statesman, Gaza: The jailed state