Literature

A Letter to Jean Deprun

Bernard-Henri Lévy

by Bernard-Henri Lévy

Cher Deprun,

This is what we called you in those irreverent times of September 1967, which was when I entered my second year at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris. We would just say ‘Deprun’. Never ‘Monsieur Deprun’, in the way Camus said ‘Monsieur Germain’ to the old teacher whose ‘generous heart’ and ‘affectionate hand’ he always remembered, and whose ‘grateful pupil’ he declared himself to be, even at the Nobel ceremony.

We called you ‘Deprun’ as if you were our comrade. We said ‘Deprun’ with that affected insolence that was the mark of the times and which authorised us, on occasion, to oust you without ceremony from the blackboard and, in your place, to improvise some pronouncement on the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, the triumphs of the ‘red’ scholars in China, or the latest edict by Lin Biao, the closest henchman of the Great Helmsman of Beijing. We called you ‘Deprun’ as though you were one of us students, our equal, one of our kind… Well, God knows you weren’t!

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