Is it possible to know anything, philosophers have pondered for centuries? In the case of two heavyweight French thinkers, the question is more: is it possible to know too much?
A respected French philosopher has publicly disowned his equally famous philosopher son not for stealing his girlfriend but for writing a book he claims has left him “heartbroken” and loved ones “drowning in a sea of ingratitude”.
Jean-Paul Enthoven, 71, one time partner of the singer, supermodel and former first lady Carla Bruni before she left him for his son Raphaël, has reacted angrily to the publication of the latter’s autobiographical novel entitled Le Temps gagné (Time Saved).
“I don’t like people’s private lives to be unpacked like this in public … why should I and my loved ones be subjected to this treatment based on prying eyes and denigration. Does someone have the right to tear off the masks that each of us may have needed during our lives without our consent and for their own pleasure,” Enthoven senior told Le Figaro newspaper. “As Camus, who my son is so fond of quoting, said: ‘A man should restrain himself’.”
The family row between the two high-profile figures is the scandal of La rentrée – the grand return to normal life in France after the long summer holidays and the start of the literary season when books are released.
The glossy magazine Gala described Le Temps gagné as “brilliant … like a bullet in the skull”, saying the author has “recounted the hell of his childhood and his long emancipation from being ‘the son of…’”
Le Figaro described the book as “funny, irritating, talented and exasperating at the same time” and said it had created a kind of “trench warfare” between supporters of father and son.
Jean-Paul Enthoven, who has just published a novel, says he sent a text message cutting off all communication with his son Raphaël, 46, a regular on French television and radio and in the press.
“I am in mourning. My heart is broken. It’s a terrible book for those, like me and others, who have loved Raphaël and who find themselves drowning in an ocean of ingratitude. I would never have believed that my life, where he has played a central role, could take such a sad turn,” he said.
Raphaël Enthoven’s 500-page book, reportedly named after one of his father’s mottos “Save time, you have to save time”, is set in what Le Figaro describes as the “champagne socialist” milieu of Paris’s chic 6th arrondissement and features a number of easily recognised characters.
These include the well-known philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy – known as BHL – whose daughter, Justine, was married to Raphaël Enthoven before he left her for his father’s girlfriend Bruni, with whom he had a son. Bruni, who is one of the few to come out of the book well – Enthoven describes her as “the ideal woman”, later married the former French president Nicolas Sarkozy.
French critics have taken the row back to its Greek roots, declaring it a classic manifestation of the Oedipus complex: Raphaël, they declared, had metaphorically killed his father.