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Levy: Los Angeles Will Die

bhl.jpgI really want to like Bernard-Henri Levy. He’s French. He has a sense of humor. And, for a philosopher, he dresses well. But his Atlantic-sponsored Tocqueville-replicating journey through America has not exactly been revelatory. This month, he hits Los Angeles and has dumb and pretentious things to say about us (subscription required for access):

A city is like a text, Roland Barthes once wrote.

Just as there is a language of dreams, so there is a language of cities, more or less well articulated, more or less elegant or legible.

I wonder, then, if the prototype of a city with a poorly developed language, the prototype of unintelligible, illegible discourse, isn’t Los Angeles.

For after all, what must be true for a city to be legible?

First, it has to have a center. But Los Angeles has no center.

No kidding? Haven’t heard that one before. Kevin Starr is nice enough to show Levy around, but il n’est pas impressed:

For an illegible city is also a city without a history.

An unintelligible city is a city whose historicity is nothing more than an ageless remorse.

And a post-historical city is, I fear, a city about which one can predict with some certainty that it will die.

Ooh, Levy called us post-historical. Snap!

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