... don’t let the instinct to insult [Levy] overwhelm you, for the book and the film raise questions that are rarely posed so starkly ... So much is working against the return of empathy to the public sphere that it is easy to be skeptical of this message, to respond with sarcasm or scorn. But before anything can change or improve, someone has to believe that change and improvement are possible. Pessimism is easy but irresponsible, because it implies that nothing can or need be done. Optimism is much more difficult and risky, but without it we can’t see a better future. The Will to See offers precisely that kind of difficult optimism: Both the book and the film call on people not just to see the world, but to be moved and interested by what they find there, and to do something about it.
... a pugnacious little book—part reportage, part autobiographical manifesto—written by a man whose conscience is frozen in time. That judgment isn’t meant as a put-down. It’s a way of saying that the moral compass of its author, the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, appears not to have been reset since he graduated from the École Normale Supérieure in Paris in 1971 ... Mr. Lévy’s account of his intellectual formation is littered with the names of French philosophers, poets, historians and economists, many of whom will be unfamiliar to Anglophone readers ... If the first part of The Will to See, in which Mr. Lévy examines the sources that shaped his thinking, is written in an auto-interrogatory Gallic style, the second part—the reportage—is suffused with a passion and indignation that is altogether more accessible. His dispatch from Bangladesh, which he revisited in March 2020, is a powerful essay that wastes no time on sterile objectivity ... It is clear that Mr. Lévy imagines what his life would be like if he were a student today; and it’s no surprise that he prefers to write and travel as if the present time were 1971 all over again. His are the principles—and sometimes the conceits—of another age, and he takes them with him wherever he goes.
... an intellectual biography-cum-manifesto ... Lévy is a suggestive and allusive writer ... Fierce and elegant, Lévy’s musings will be of profound interest to any reader of modern continental philosophy.