Alain Finkielkraut

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Alain Finkielkraut
Finkielkraut in 2014
Born (1949-06-30) 30 June 1949 (age 74)
NationalityStateless (1949–1950)
French (1950–present)
Alma materÉcole normale supérieure de lettres et sciences humaines
AwardsOfficer of the Legion of Honour
Académie française
Era20th-/21st-century philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolContinental philosophy
Nouveaux Philosophes[1]
InstitutionsÉcole Polytechnique
University of California, Berkeley
Main interests
Modernity, history of ideas, education

Alain Luc Finkielkraut (French pronunciation: [alɛ̃ finkɛlˈkʁot], [finkɛlˈkʁaʊ̯t]; Yiddish: [fɪŋkiːlˈkʁaʊ̯t]; born 30 June 1949) is a French essayist, radio producer and public intellectual. Since 1986, he has been the host of Répliques, a talk show broadcast weekly on France Culture. He was elected a Fellow of the Académie Française in 2014.[2]

Life and career[edit]

Finkielkraut is the son of a Polish Jewish manufacturer of fine leather goods who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Finkielkraut attended the Lycée Louis-le-Grand and studied modern literature at the École normale supérieure de Saint-Cloud. He joined the Department of French Literature in the University of California, Berkeley as an assistant professor in 1976 and the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences in the École Polytechnique as a professor in 1989.

At the end of the 1990s, he founded with Benny Lévy and Bernard-Henri Lévy an Institute on Levinassian Studies [fr] at Jerusalem.

In 2010, he was involved in founding JCall, a left-wing advocacy group based in Europe to lobby the European Parliament on foreign policy issues concerning the Middle East and Israel in particular.


Finkielkraut first came to public attention when he and Pascal Bruckner co-authored a number of short but controversial essays intended to question the idea that a new emancipation was underway; these included The New Love Disorder (1977) (Le Nouveau Désordre amoureux) and At the Corner of the Street (1978) (Au Coin de la rue), as well as The Adventure (1979) (L'aventure).

Finkielkraut then began publishing singly authored works on the public's betrayal of memory and our intransigence in the presence of events that, he argued, should move the public. This reflection led Finkielkraut to address post-Holocaust Jewish identity in Europe (The Imaginary Jew) (1983) (le Juif imaginaire). Seeking to promote what he calls a duty of memory, Finkielkraut also published The Future of a Negation: Reflexion on the Genocide Issue (1982) (Avenir d'une négation : réflexion sur la question du génocide) and later his comments on the Klaus Barbie trial, Remembering in Vain (La Mémoire vaine).

Finkielkraut feels particularly indebted to Emmanuel Levinas. In The Wisdom of Love (La Sagesse de l'amour), Finkielkraut discusses this debt in terms of modernity and its mirages. Finkielkraut continues his reflection on the matter in The Defeat of the Mind (1987) (La Défaite de la pensée) and The Ingratitude: Talks About Our Times (1999) (Ingratitude : conversation sur notre temps). Since the 2000s, Alain Finkielkraut has given his opinion on a variety of topics in society, such as the Internet in The Internet, The Troubling Ecstasy (2001) (Internet, l'inquiétante extase). In the book Present Imperfect (2002) (L'Imparfait du présent), akin to a personal diary, he expresses his thoughts about various events in the world (especially the events of 11 September 2001).


In 1995 Finkielkraut denounced the Cannes Film Festival's jury award, saying:

In recognizing "Underground", the Cannes jury thought it was honouring a creator with a thriving imagination. In fact, it has honoured a servile and flashy illustrator of criminal clichés. The Cannes jury ... praised a version of the most hackneyed and deceitful Serb propaganda. The devil himself could not have conceived so cruel an outrage against Bosnia, nor such a grotesque epilogue to Western incompetence and frivolity.[3]

It was later revealed that Finkielkraut had not seen the film before writing his criticism.[4][5][6]

His interview published in the Haaretz magazine in November 2005 in which he gave his opinion about the 2005 French riots stirred up much controversy. Finkielkraut's remarked that the France national football team was "black, black, black, which causes sneers all over Europe" (as opposed to the expression "black-blanc-beur"—meaning "Black, White, Arab"—coined after the 1998 World Cup victory to honor the African and Afro Caribbean, European and North African origins of the players), adding that "if you point this out in France, you are thrown in jail." He also denounced African-American Muslims, claiming that there is an "Islamization of the blacks" happening in both America and France.[7]

Anti-Zionist filmmaker Eyal Sivan took legal action against Finkielkraut after the Frenchman said Sivan "is, if you will, one of the actors in this particularly painful, particularly alarming reality, the Jewish anti-Semitism that rages today."[8]

In 2009, he was criticized for his comment on Roman Polanski sexual offence in which a 13-year-old girl was involved. Finkielkraut claimed that she was a "teenager", "not a child".[9]

He has been criticized for his close friendship with Croatian president Franjo Tuđman and was accused by David Bruce MacDonald of supporting "a nation whose leader was a Holocaust revisionist, at the helm of an authoritarian government."[10]

In August 2018, Finkielkraut expressed in an interview with The Times of Israel his worries for French Jews and the future of France: "The anti-Semitism we're now experiencing in France is the worst I've ever seen in my lifetime, and I'm convinced it's going to get worse".[11]

On 16 February 2019, Finkielkraut was accosted on the street by a group of yellow vest protesters in Paris when they chanced on him in Boulevard du Montparnasse.[12][13][14][15] A 36-year-old French convert to Islam was indicted after saying that Finkelkraut was "going to die".[16] Finkelkraut had previously expressed his sympathy for the yellow vest movement.[17] In April, Finkelkraut stated that he had been repeatedly accosted by street protestors and told reporters, "I can no longer show my face on the street".[16]

In April 2019, IEP (Sciences Po) announced the cancellation of a forum where Finkielkraut was to be a speaker, due to threats by "antifa" protestors. Eugénie Bastié of Le Figaro denounced the cancellation as a "gangrenous" symptom of the Americanisation of French university life.[18][16] The announcement was intended to mislead far-left protestors, and the lecture went on in a different location.[16]

In 2022, while appearing on the French TV channel LCI, he commented on the Duhamel scandal involving incest committed by Duhamel on his 14-year old stepson. Finkielkraut speculated that there may have been "consent" between the two parties and claimed that a 14-year-old is "not the same thing" as a "child." Within days, he was summarily fired from the French TV news network for which he was working as a commentator.[19][20]


  • The Religion of Humanity and the Sin of the Jews, essay in Azure magazine.
  • Reflections on the Coming Anti-Semitism, essay in Azure magazine.
  • Ralentir, mots-valises !, Seuil (1979)
  • Le nouveau désordre amoureux, Seuil (1977)
  • Au coin de la rue, l'aventure, Seuil (1979)
  • Petit fictionnaire illustré : les mots qui manquent au dico, Seuil (1981)
  • Le Juif imaginaire, Seuil (1981)
  • L'avenir d'une négation, Seuil (1982)
  • La sagesse de l'amour, Gallimard (1984)
  • La défaite de la pensée, Gallimard (1987)
  • La mémoire vaine, du Crime contre l'humanité, Gallimard (1989)
  • Comment peut-on être Croate ?, Gallimard (1992)
  • L'humanité perdue, Seuil (1996)
  • Le mécontemporain. Charles Péguy, lecteur du monde moderne, Gallimard (1992)
  • L'ingratitude. Conversation sur notre temps avec Antoine Robitaille, Gallimard (1999)
  • Une voix vient de l'autre rive, Gallimard (2000)
  • Internet, l'inquiétante extase, Mille et une nuits (2001)
  • Penser le XXe siècle, École Polytechnique (2000)
  • Des hommes et des bêtes, Tricorne (2000)
  • L'imparfait du présent. Pièces brèves, Gallimard (2002)
  • Enseigner les lettres aujourd'hui, Tricorne (2003)
  • Les battements du monde, Pauvert (2003)
  • Au nom de l'Autre. Réflexions sur l'antisémitisme qui vient, Gallimard (2003)
  • Nous autres, modernes : quatre leçons, Ellipses (2005)
  • Ce que peut la littérature, Stock (2006)
  • Entretiens sur la laïcité, Verdier (2006)
  • Qu'est-ce que la France, Stock (2007)
  • La querelle de l'école, Stock (2007)
  • Philosophie et modernité, École Polytechnique (2008)
  • Un cœur intelligent, Stock/Flammarion (2009)
  • « Pour une décence commune » in Regards sur la crise. Réflexions pour comprendre la crise… et en sortir, essay contributed to a collective work edited by Antoine Mercier, Paris, Éditions Hermann, 2010.
  • L'explication, conversation avec Aude Lancelin, with Alain Badiou, Nouvelles Éditions Lignes, 2010.
  • L'interminable écriture de l'Extermination, with Finkielkraut's direction, transcriptions of TV appearances on Répliques de France Culture, Stock, 2010.
  • Et si l'amour durait, Stock, 2011
  • L'identité malheureuse, Stock, 2013
  • La Seule Exactitude, Stock, 2015
  • En terrain miné, with Élisabeth de Fontenay, Stock, 2017
  • À la première personne, Gallimard, 2019
  • L'après littérature, Stock, 2021


  1. ^ Lévy, Bernard-Henri (2008). Left in Dark Times. Random House Publishing Group. p. 43.
  2. ^ Frédéric Joignot (11 April 2014). "Alain Finkielkraut, un Immortel contesté". Le Monde (in French). Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  3. ^ Riding, Alan (5 December 1995). "Dispute Leads Bosnian to Quit Films". The New York Times.
  4. ^ "The polemic 'Underground'". Archived from the original on 26 December 2008. Retrieved 2 April 2010.
  5. ^ "Faut-il brûler Underground?". L'Express. France. 19 October 1995. Retrieved 2 April 2010.
  6. ^ Goran Gocić (2001). Notes from the Underground: The Cinema of Emir Kusturica. Wallflower Press. pp. 42–. ISBN 978-1-903364-14-7.
  7. ^ "Finkielkraut - Interview Haaretz : les Noirs et les Arabes". Ha'aretz. No. 17 November 2005.
  8. ^ "Sivan vs. Finkielkraut". Cabinet Magazine. Translated by Julia Elsky. Summer 2007. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  9. ^ Thouny, Laura (10 April 2014). "Finkielkraut, ses dérapages, ses coups de colère". Le Nouvel Observateur (in French). Retrieved 2019-02-22.
  10. ^ MacDonald, David Bruce (2002). Balkan Holocausts?: Serbian and Croatian Victim Centered Propaganda and the War in Yugoslavia. Manchester: Manchester University Press. p. 267. ISBN 0-7190-6467-8. Retrieved 15 December 2013.
  11. ^ Sarner, Robert (24 August 2018). "Controversial Jewish analyst Alain Finkielkraut is worried for France's future". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 2019-02-22.
  12. ^ Beeri, Tamar (17 February 2019). "French Jewish philosopher assaulted 'dirty Jew' by yellow vest protesters". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2019-02-17.
  13. ^ "Vidéo. "Sale sioniste" : Alain Finkielkraut cible d'insultes antisémites par des gilets jaunes". Sud Ouest (in French). 16 February 2019. Retrieved 2019-02-22.
  14. ^ France to investigate anti-Semitic insults at 'yellow vest' protest. Authorities in Paris have opened an investigation into anti-Semitic insults by French "yellow vests" against Jewish philosopher and writer Alain Finkielkraut
  15. ^ ‘I felt the hatred’, says philosopher attacked by gilets jaunes. Alain Finkielkraut says the protester who screamed ‘go back to Tel Aviv’ is part of a new wave of antisemitism
  16. ^ a b c d Liphshiz, Cnaan. "A famed French-Jewish philosopher is afraid to leave his home". Times of Israel. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  17. ^ Tear Gas, Hate Speech Marks 14th Yellow Vest Protest
  18. ^ Eugénie Bastié (25 April 2019). "Pièce de théâtre interdite, Finkielkraut insulté: ce sectarisme qui monte à l'université". Le Figaro (in French). Retrieved 25 April 2019. inquiétant phénomène qui gangrène nos écoles est aussi l'énième symptôme de l'américanisation de la vie universitaire française
  19. ^ Evans, Joe (19 January 2021). "Incest accusation inspires second French #MeToo movement". The Week. Retrieved 31 October 2023.
  20. ^ McAuley, James (29 November 2021). "Europe's War on Woke". The Nation. Retrieved 31 October 2023.

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